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The problem: high burden on the health system?

Jong, J. de, Schäfer, W. The problem: high burden on the health system? European Journal of Public Health: 2013, 23(Suppl. 1) 88. Abstract. 6th European Public Health Conference: Health in Europe: are we there yet? Learning from the past, building the future. 13-16 November 2013, Brussel.
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Background: Often, ageing of the population is seen as an important cause for rising costs and an increasing burden on European health care systems in terms of workforce and rising expenditures
(e.g. due to higher costs in long term care). In this presentation we discuss what is known today about the impact of ageing of the European population on the use of health care, workforce and rising costs. Methods: A literature study has been performed. Furthermore existing data sources, such as the European Health for All database are used. Results: In all European countries the percentage of the population aged over 65 is rising. In the literature, it was found that it is not only age that determines health care costs, but that proximity to death is an important predictor. Nevertheless, it can be observed that the years lost to disability, being the years that people depend on the health care system, increase. This has an effect on the demand for care. The demand for health care is determined by demographics and other factors, like technology. With an aging population the (potential) workforce to deliver this care is decreasing. However, looking at the facts, the number of physicians and nurses per 100.000 population are still increasing. Also, even though the number of hospital visits are increasing, the average length of stay has constantly decreased over the past decades. Costs are rising, not only because of increased demand, but also because of increasing prices. Conclusions: Whereas the ageing of the population will bring along challenges for health systems, other factors like technological developments and prices may even more so attribute to the increasing costs of care. Health Services Research can contribute to finding solutions of the increasing burden, e.g. by comparing solutions between countries and by strongly monitoring issues around workforce in health care.