Putting palliative care on the global health agenda: a commentary from the Lancet Oncology

February 10, 2015

By Richard Powell et al.
The Lancet Oncology, Vol. 16, No. 2, p131-133, February 2015

Palliative care—defined by WHO as “an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problems associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering”—has been largely absent from the global health dialogue and consequently a low priority for donor investment.

However, an important window of opportunity has opened to push palliative care up the global health agenda: the publication of an initial draft of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of targets that will define global health priorities from 2015 to 2030. The SDGs will replace the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted by 193 countries in 2000. Those goals had minimal mention of improvement of quality of life or palliation of symptoms, and cancers, heart disease, and other non-communicable diseases often requiring palliative interventions were totally absent.

The recent report of The Lancet Commission on investing in health, which laid out a 20 year health investment frame work for all low-income and lower-middle income countries, argued to ensure that all countries of all income statuses have access to oral morphine and propose an indicator that is a specific and feasible measure of SDG3.

Read the full piece: Lancet Editorial on palliative care