With aging come many benefits, including freedom, wisdom, perspective, and—in many cultures—respect. Unfortunately, the downside is that aging also brings medical ailments. Many people in wealthy countries have multiple co-existing, chronic conditions. This is known as multi-morbidity. In 2016, chronic conditions accounted for over two-thirds of deaths worldwide. Many of these people had more than one condition.
The number of medical conditions that people accrue increases with age. The concept of multi-morbidity is well known to healthcare providers in high-income countries where there are large numbers of older people. In poorer parts of the world, such as sub-Saharan Africa, populations are younger. The focus of healthcare has been on diseases affecting these younger populations such as infectious diseases and maternal and child ill-health.
But the world is changing. The number of older people in lower income countries is growing. These countries’ health systems are not designed to care for people with chronic conditions. They are more focused on single, acute diseases. This may need to change towards more individual-based health care for chronic conditions. This is why it’s important to establish if multi-morbidity is also an issue in lower income countries.
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