Sat, 27 Mar 1999

WHO warns Indonesia of aging population pressures

JAKARTA (JP): The World Health Organization (WHO) warned Indonesia on Friday of health problems among its senior citizens, as their number would reach 29 million in 2020, the third largest aging population in the world after China and India.

WHO representative in Indonesia, Robert J. Kim-Farley, said the government would be under pressure to care for the elderly in the community as their health problems contribute to 74 percent of the mortality rate in developing countries.

Farley said most illnesses were non-infectious, such as diabetes, heart disease or stroke, cancer and hypertension.

"Therefore, health development in Indonesia must focus on improving the quality of life and human resources, including the elderly."

Farley was promoting World Health Day which falls on April 7. This year's event will be devoted to "active aging". WHO has declared 1999 the International Year of Older Persons.

WHO health promotion consultant, Susan Loo, suggested the government become involved in early health intervention programs by providing better health care services, health information to older people, including awareness of processes which could lead to degenerative and lifestyle diseases.

"We can alert (the elderly) about smoking, high-level cholesterol consumption, lack of exercise and other lifestyles which can lead to health problems for the elderly," she said.

The life expectancy rate for Indonesian women is 66.5 years, while for men the rate is 62.9 years.

Farley insisted that healthy older people are valuable resources for their families, communities and the national economy.

WHO is currently collecting statistics on elderly Indonesians, Farley said.

"We focus on aging as part of a whole life rather than a static age set apart from the rest of the population."

WHO has allocated US$5 million annually in the past decade to run its program in Indonesia, with up to $300,000 used to help older people suffering from non-infectious diseases.

Activities to celebrate World Health Day will include visits to institutions where elderly people are actively involved and a workshop and seminar on older people. The activities are jointly arranged by WHO and the Ministry of Health.

"The state-owned health insurance company, Askes, will serve as coordinator of this year's event," Loo said. (edt)