Global health challenges



The demographic trends we are witnessing in terms of population ageing are compelling and challenging. Given our strong interest in healthcare and meeting public health priorities, our industry has a significant role to play in fostering healthy ageing.

Today, for the first time in history, most people can expect to live into their 60s and beyond. These extra years of life and demographic shifts have profound implications for each of us, and for the societies we live in.

Thanks to breakthroughs in healthcare, nutrition, and sanitation, and significant contributions from our own industry, “growing old” has become the norm but the quality of health years gained is less. However, this is now posing major challenges to the sustainability of both welfare and healthcare systems, in developed and developing countries alike. Trends of modernization and urbanization only serve to exacerbate this, for example, through rural-urban migration and the weakening of support systems for older people as younger populations leave rural areas in search of employment.

We need to achieve a global re-think of the impact role on older people in society. A key driver of the rise of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is population ageing – two-thirds of those affected by NCDs are aged over 60 and developing countries are increasingly shouldering this burden, which can be further exacerbated by infectious diseases. Dementia is gaining global attention as it emerges that it will exact a heavy cost on the current and future economic development of all countries. It is clear that the effects of increased unsupported longevity are a major concern and pose distinct health challenges, and it is absolutely crucial that healthy ageing is given the attention it deserves, if we are to achieve sustainable health systems and make a significant dent in the burgeoning impact of NCDs.

While the shift in distribution of a country’s population towards older ages – known as population ageing – started in high-income countries, it is now low- and middle-income countries that are experiencing the greatest change.

900 million people worldwide

are aged 60 years and older

80% of older people

will be living in low- and middle-income countries in 2050

The number of people aged 60

will outnumber children younger than 5 years by 2020