The monthly report by Dr. Katherine I. Pettus, PhD, IAHPC Advocacy Officer.
I learned this new expression, ‘white ravens,’ at a Brussels meeting of the UN-funded PACE Project ‘Palliative care for older people: why we all need to care, now,’ where researchers presented their final report on palliative care in European long-term care facilities. Invited experts were then tasked with group work to reflect on how to advance PC for older persons in policy and service delivery. The meeting was co-hosted by Age Platform Europe and PACE program coordinator and Vrije University palliative care Professor Dr. Lieve Van den Block, who explained that one of the challenges of implementing long-term care is finding experienced palliative care coaches to transform facility culture. In a side conversation at lunch, she said these coaches were ‘as rare as white ravens.’ In order to ensure that no older person dies in pain in nursing and care homes in Europe or elsewhere, she added, palliative care advocates need to find and train more of these ‘white ravens’ to transform the culture and practice of long-term care institutions.
Lieve emphasized that these skills can be taught, and encouraged interested persons to sign up for the upcoming MOOC (massive online open course) with Drs. Sheila Payne and Katherine Froggatt, among others. (Click here for an EAPC blog on the MOOC.)
Professor Luc Deliens, coordinator of the End-of-Life Care Research Group reminded participants that Dr. Cicely Saunders’ first aim in originally developing hospice care was prevention of harm to the dying. ‘Prevention is really important in palliative care; prevention of harm,’ he said. ‘This is everyone’s responsibility, not just that of clinicians, and requires a holistic approach and attention to the social dimension of care.’
This meeting was particularly timely because IAHPC will be actively participating in the UN’s 10th Open-ended Working Group on Ageing taking place in New York from 15-17 April 2019. One topic on the agenda is discussing the normative guidelines that will constitute a right to palliative care for older persons in a proposed binding convention. [See our Advocacy Page for more on this meeting, where IAHPC will cosponsor a side event with two of our partners, Help Age International and the Global Alliance for the Rights of Older Persons.]
At the time of writing (late January) we are actively participated in the 144th meeting of the World Health Organization Executive Board with the World Hospice and Palliative Care Alliance delegation. Both organizations gave statements on the crucial role of community health workers and improving access to controlled medicines for the relief of pain and provision of palliative care. [For more information on the EB and for the text of our statements, see our Advocacy Page and Twitter feed.]
IAHPC is now preparing for the High-Level meeting of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in March, which will review progress of member states since the 2009 Ministerial Declaration on Drug Policy. While the 2016 UNGASS Outcome Document represented significant progress in the international drug policy narrative, more than 70% of the world’s people who need controlled medicines still lack access, and much work remains to be done. IAHPC is helping to organize, and will participate in, side events and panels at CND that will address the issue of improving access in the context of balanced drug policies. [Go here for an article co-authored by myself, Liliana De Lima, and others on balanced drug policies.]
Stay tuned for my March report on CND, its side events, and the High-Level Meeting on Palliative Care in Central America taking place in Panama City on 12-13 February 2019.