On November 1st, 2018, the Asian Development Bank organized a “Roundtable Discussion on Catalyzing Private Capital for Aging Care in Thailand,” in Bangkok.
The event welcomed a diverse group of participants hailing from Thai government ministries, non-governmental development organizations, and the private sector including mClinica’s Thailand Country Director, Lindsay Nickel. The Roundtable Discussion acted as a forum for dialogue to help Thailand plan and implement strategies to cope with an aging population and to serve as a model for other Asian countries experiencing similar issues.
Thailand’s population is aging at a rapid pace, with 11 million people currently over the age of 60. According to the National Statistics Office, by 2021, one in five people in Thailand will be aged 60 and above, classifying the nation as “aged.” By 2031, the portion of the population above age 60 is expected to reach 28%.
Much of this change is due to a higher life expectancy coupled with lower birth rates. This issue warrants urgent action as Thailand’s population is becoming “aged” before the country reaches “developed” status, which poses a challenge in ensuring the health and well-being of such a large population of older adults.
Traditionally, families have cared for the elderly, but that model is changing as household sizes are decreasing and internal migration is increasing. Since 1986, the number of older adults living alone or with a spouse has been steadily on the rise.
This has led to the development of long-term care systems emerging in Thailand. Managed by the National Health Security Office and local authorities, community-based long-term care models make use of paid caregivers within a community. A major challenge faced by this model is a severe shortage of human resources in caring for older people. This is especially true of specialized professionals such as geriatricians, dentists, occupational therapists, and geriatric nurses.
According to Nickel, “Pharmacists are the most promising solution to long-term care – they are highly skilled healthcare professionals that can improve clinical outcomes with their ability to treat complex patients and manage those with chronic diseases, all at a low cost.”
Pharmacy professionals are present in both poor and rural areas, and are often patients’ first point of access to modern medical advice and treatment. The community-based long-term care model infrastructure already in place is perfectly positioned to welcome pharmacists in playing a more prominent role.
Pharmacy professionals are already easily accessible and in a unique position to provide patient-focused primary healthcare services to a community. They can ensure the rational and cost-effective use of medicines and adherence to treatment plans. Ultimately, preventive care is much cheaper to both society and the individual than treating an acute event such as a heart attack.
Thailand’s government is committed to implementing policies and programs to address the needs of its aging population. A logical, cost-effective, and strategic next step is to make pharmacy professionals a key part of the healthcare team.