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States Must Give Priority Attention to the Health Situation of Older Persons.
September 16, 2011

“Panel Discussion: Right to Health of Older Persons”
Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
Delivered by Amy Mc Gann

Friday, September 16, 2011


Thank you Mr. Vice-President and to today’s panel.

The United States is pleased to take part in today’s discussion on advancing the health of older persons. While the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health applies not only to older persons, but to persons of all ages, in general older persons have increased health concerns. They tend to be more susceptible to illnesses, chronic diseases and conditions, and disabilities, and therefore require more health services.

The United States has strong laws, policies, and programs in place aimed towards establishing and protecting the rights, dignity, and independence of older persons. Four pieces of legislation – the Social Security Act, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Older Americans Act – form the foundation of economic, health, and social support for millions of seniors, individuals with disabilities, and their families. These programs have enabled millions of older Americans to live more secure, healthy, and meaningful lives.

The Administration on Aging (HHS/AOA), located in the Department of Health and Human Services, seeks to achieve the best possible physical and mental health of older people. The office has developed our country’s infrastructure of low-cost home and community-based services. These services are designed to coordinate with the services and support systems funded by Medicare and Medicaid, with the goal of maintaining older persons’ health, independence, and dignity. Each year, the Older Americans Act’s comprehensive home and community-based system helps nearly 11 million older Americans and 800,000 of their family caregivers. These health, prevention, and wellness programs and services help prevent hospital readmissions, provide transportation to doctors’ appointments, and assist older individuals with some of life’s most basic functions.

The Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program is one of our many programs designed to protect the rights of older persons. The Program advocates on behalf of residents in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other residential settings. This successful program helps residents voice their concerns, secure their rights, and correct conditions affecting their care. Residents are informed that they have rights guaranteed by law, including being free from chemical and physical restraints, managing their own finances, and keeping medical records confidential.

Our approach in the United States is consistent with the UN Principles for Older Persons and their goal of ensuring that states give priority attention to the situation of older persons. The UN Principles state that older persons should have access to health care, services, and appropriate institutional care, as well as the opportunity to enjoy their human rights.

Thank you for your attention. I look forward to an instructive discussion and to learning more about other member states’ efforts to further the health of older persons.