Annick Stijns, Project Manager IMPACT, Radboudumc, Nijmegen, The Netherlands; Zeger De Groote, Project Manager EURO-IMPACT, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) and Ghent University, Belgium.
Training and education of students and professionals in health care focuses mainly on curing or prevention of diseases. Quality of life of those people who can no longer be cured, still receives too little attention. Additionally, current healthcare policies in the field of ageing and dementia have focused predominantly on preventing illness and promoting health, but older people are at high risk of dying with complex and multiple conditions and experiencing significant care needs.
In the past four years, European Union (EU) co-funded IMPACT and EURO-IMPACT projects have worked on spreading and implementing different aspects of the World Health Organization (WHO) definition of palliative care. Ideally, palliative care should be available as soon as a disease appears to be incurable and life limiting. Besides that, it is stated that palliative care should be available for all life-limiting diseases and not only for patients with cancer. Twelve years after publication of the adapted WHO definition for palliative care, most palliative care is often still restricted to reactive, terminal care and to patients with cancer, as research from both projects has shown.
Both projects have studied important policy themes: integration of palliative care into education and training, integration of palliative care services into the structure and financing of national healthcare systems, quality improvement by developing tools to optimise structures, processes and outcomes of palliative care settings and implementation in daily practice and many more. Now it is time to use this knowledge to face the major EU policy challenge of delivering high quality long-term care for people with life-limiting illnesses.
The IMPACT and EURO-IMPACT consortia joined forces to emphasise the need they felt to involve policy-makers and influence the political agenda towards the implementation of policy recommendations by 2020. During their final conference, a lively debate with policy-makers, key stakeholders, clinicians and patient representatives will be used to build a better future for palliative care, including the integration, education and use of newly available tools. A charter will be created, consisting of policy recommendations signed by policy-makers and the European Association for Palliative Care (EAPC), to ensure high-quality palliative care in an ageing society in Europe (and beyond).
A date for your diary…
The final conference of IMPACT and EURO-IMPACT, Towards integration of palliative care in an age-friendly EU, will be held on 15 October 2014 at the Museum of Natural Sciences, Brussels, Belgium. Please visit palliativecare2020.eu for more information, registration of interest and to find out about which organisations support this initiative.
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