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Palliative care

June 2019: The number of people with need for palliative care will rise by almost 87% by 2060. A global integrative policy framework could help integrate palliative care into public healthcare systems to alleviate economic costs and patient suffering.


New evidence published in The Lancet suggests that by 2060 there will be an 87% increase from 2016 of serious health-related suffering, heightening the need for increased palliative care efforts. Conditions driving the increase most prominently include cancer, cerebrovascular disease, lung disease and dementia. Nonetheless, 45% of countries currently do not offer any access to palliative care and estimates show that only 14% of people in need of palliative care receive it, mostly in high-income countries.

Implications & Opportunities

Life-threatening and life-limiting illnesses can place a high burden on social and public health systems, requiring a restructuring of health care planning and policy development to alleviate suffering and prevent health systems to destabilise. This would include increased availability of essential drugs, staff training, and public education, amongst others. The study presents global action to integrate palliative care into health systems as an ethical and economic imperative.


Many of the included variables for this first of its kind study are estimates. These estimates only have limited accuracy beyond 5-10 years’ projections, especially in low-and mid-income countries.


Sleeman, K. E., de Brito, M., Etkind, S., Nkhoma, K., Guo, P., Higginson, I. J., … Harding, R. (2019). The escalating global burden of serious health-related suffering: projections to 2060 by world regions, age groups, and health conditions. The Lancet Global Health. doi:10.1016/s2214-109x(19)30172-x 

The American Journal of Managed Care. 2019. Serious Health-Related Suffering to Nearly Double by 2060, Highlighting Need to Ramp Up Palliative Care Efforts. Retrieved from

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Adele Wiliams

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