What Is Palliative Care?
Palliative care is an approach that improves the quality of life of patients (adults and children) and their families who are facing problems associated with life-threatening illness. It prevents and relieves suffering through the early identification, correct assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, whether physical, psychosocial or spiritual.
This care is a crucial part of integrated, people-centered health services, at all levels of care: it aims to relieve suffering, whether its cause is cancer, major organ failure, drug-resistant tuberculosis, end-stage chronic illness, extreme birth prematurity or extreme frailty of old age.
Fact 1: Palliative care improves lives
Worldwide, only about 14% of people who need care currently receive it. The quality of life of patients and their families who are facing problems associated with life-threatening illness, whether physical, psychosocial or spiritual are greatly improved by palliative care.
Fact 2: Pushing policy will drive palliative care forward
World Health Assembly resolution 67.19 on strengthening palliative care, adopted in 2014, emphasizes the need to create national care policies, to ensure secure access to opioids for pain relief, training for all health care staff in palliative care, and the integration of palliative care services into existing health care systems.
Fact 3: Most people in need of palliative care are in their own homes
Therefore, the most effective models of palliative care link supervised home care and care at community health centres to hospitals with more palliative care expertise.
Fact 4: Palliative care benefits everyone
Patients during treatment for serious illnesses, not only patients at the end of their lives, can take advantage of what palliative care can offer. For example, it can improve the quality of life of patients receiving radiation therapy for cancer or chemotherapy for cancer or drug-resistant tuberculosis.
Fact 5: Oral immediate-release morphine is an essential palliative medicine
Opioid laws and prescribing regulations must balance the prevention of illegal use of opioids with ensuring accessibility to morphine to relieve moderate and severe pain.
Fact 6: Children have little access to palliative care
They are at a higher risk than adults to face inadequate pain relief. For children, 98% of those needing palliative care live in low- and middle-income countries with almost half of them living in Africa.
Fact 7: Palliative care is “people-centered”
For example, it respects the values and confidentiality of patients, seeks to protect patients and their families from financial hardship due to the illness, and provides emotional support both during the illness and for the bereaved.
Fact 8: Palliative care shows global disparity
Lack of access to palliative care and pain control is one of the largest inequalities in global health. Most people in high-income countries have access, but only a small percentage of people in low- and middle-income countries do. Each year an estimated 40 million people are in need of palliative care, 78% of whom live in low- and middle-income countries.
Fact 9: The need for palliative care has never been greater
It continues to grow with the increase of chronic diseases and people living to an older age.
Fact 10: Integrating home care has multiple benefits
Palliative care that includes home care can improve the quality of life of patients and their families while also saving money for health care systems by reducing unnecessary hospital admissions.