In line with the National Health Strategy’s Healthy Ageing focus, the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) has collaborated with the World Health Organisation (WHO) on a joint workforce training workshop for the WHO Integrated Care for Older People (ICOPE) programme.
ICOPE is a public health integrated care programme for people above the age of 60 to support the independence of older people living in society. The WHO guidelines on ICOPE propose evidence-based recommendations for health care professionals to prevent, slow, or reverse declines in the physical and mental capacities of older people.
The two-day workshop included multidisciplinary teams from both Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) and Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC) who were given an in-depth briefing on the programme's benefits. The teams also engaged in extensive discussions on how to adapt and implement the programme most effectively for their patient population.
Dr Hanadi al-Hamad, national lead for healthy ageing for MoPH and medical director of Rumailah Hospital and the Qatar Rehabilitation Institute, HMC explained that a key focus of the programme is to establish person-centred assessment and care pathways in primary care and improved integration with secondary care to provide specialised care more efficiently when needed.
“The benefit of ICOPE is that it is based on a simple yet practical model that includes screening for particular indicators to assess the health and social care needs of older persons to develop their personalised care plan,” said Dr al-Hamad. “The introduction of ICOPE in Qatar represents an amazing opportunity to introduce a more community and patient-centred approach that aligns healthcare with social services within a coordinated and integrated model of care.”
Dr Samar Elfeky
The WHO ICOPE concept is based on the recognition that as people age, their intrinsic capacity tends to decline while their health issues can become more chronic and complex. The domains of intrinsic capacity include cognitive decline, limited mobility, malnutrition, visual impairment, hearing loss, and depressive symptoms. The presence of multiple chronic conditions at the same time also becomes increasingly prevalent with age. As a result, older people may develop geriatric syndromes such as frailty, urinary incontinence, and a propensity to falls. As these challenges do not fit into discrete disease categories, they are therefore not always addressed sufficiently in typical healthcare models.
“By screening for common geriatric syndromes early on, we can address potential health risks that an older person may face and try to implement preventive safeguards that reduce the risks of severe illness or injury where possible. Our goal is to support the increase in Healthy Life-Years for the over 60 years old population in the future with practical measures,” added Dr al-Hamad.
“The ICOPE guidelines are designed to facilitate countries’ efforts to improve the health and well-being of older populations, and to move closer to the achievement of universal health coverage for all at all ages,” said Dr Samar ElFeky, regional adviser of Health Promotion and Social Determinats of Health and Regional Focal Person for Health of Older People, WHO Regional Office of Eastern Mediterranean. “This programme requires the support and participation of professionals from the medical, community health, and social sectors to enable more seamless interaction and integration between different service providers. We were therefore pleased to see the strong engagement from HMC and PHCC during the two-day workshop.”
“Qatar takes great pride in adopting international best practice solutions, such as ICOPE, but we always endeavour to adapt the approach to better fit local needs and expectations. The workshop organised with the WHO ICOPE experts provided an ideal forum for HMC and PHCC staff to review and tailor the programme for Qatar,” added, Dr Ameera Mohammed al-Khuzaei, community medicine consultant, PHCC.