National Academy of Medicine

Preparing for Better Health and Health Care for an Aging Population: A Vital Direction for Health and Health Care

By John W. Rowe, Lisa Berkman, Linda Fried, Terry Fulmer, James Jackson, Mary Naylor, William Novelli, Jay Olshansky, and Robyn Stone
September 19, 2016 | Discussion Paper
About the Vital Directions for Health and Health Care Series

Vital DirectionsThis publication is part of the National Academy of Medicine’s Vital Directions for Health and Health Care Initiative, which commissioned expert papers on 19 priority focus areas for U.S. health policy by more than 100 leading researchers, scientists, and policy makers from across the United States. The views presented in this publication and others in the series are those of the authors and do not represent formal consensus positions of the NAM, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, or the authors’ organizations.
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The proportion of the US population over 65 years old is increasing dramatically, and the group over 85 years old, the “oldest old”, is the most rapidly growing segment. People who survive into higher ages in America, which itself is an aging society, face a suite of competing forces that will yield healthy life extension for some and life extension accompanied by notable increases in frailty and disability for many. We spend more, for worse outcomes, than many if not all other developed countries, including care for older persons. Looking forward, our health care system is unprepared to provide the medical and support services needed for previously unimagined numbers of sick older persons, and we are not investing in keeping people healthy into their highest ages. This paper summarizes the opportunities for valuable policy advances in several important spheres that are central to the health and well-being of older persons. In all of them, concerns regarding disparities in health and the severe concentration of risk among the poorest and least educated members of our society present special opportunities for progress and these issues are addressed in detail in other papers in the Vital Directions series. Read more >>

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and not necessarily of the authors’ organizations, the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), or the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (the National Academies). The paper is intended to help inform and stimulate discussion. It is not a report of the NAM or the National Academies. Copyright by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.