Elderly population may drain resources from paediatrics

November 18, 1999

Children in an ageing society

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The needs of an ageing population may drain resources from paediatric care, writes Professor David Hall in this week's BMJ. With an increase in the number of profoundly disabled children surviving infancy into childhood, Hall argues that the demand for paediatric services will continue to increase.

In his discussion paper the author highlights some of the implications for children living within an ageing society. He says that women are now having children at an older age than at any time in the past 50 years, and delayed childbearing and voluntary childlessness are especially prevalent among highly educated women. This, he speculates may increase health and wealth inequalities in offspring.

If middle class women delay childbearing until they feel the time is right, they are likely to make a substantial investment in the child born and provide them with security, material goods, first class education and enriching experiences, says Hall. Children born to younger mothers and who grow up in poverty on the other hand may become part of an "underclass" he claims.

The number of women over the age of 30 who seek financial help for their disabled child has risen over the past two decades as the excellence of neonatal and paediatric care mean that many more severely disabled children now survive, says the author. This trend, together with the increase in the life expectancy of parents predicts a generation of elderly carers trying to look after profoundly disabled offspring.

Hall concludes that healthcare commissioners must not become complacent about paediatric care just because demographic changes demand that we invest more in the care of older people.

Professor David Hall, Professor of Community Paediatrics, Community Health Sheffield and University of Sheffield, Community Sciences Building, Northern General Hospital, Sheffield Tel: 44-836-799918
Email: d.hall@sheffield.ac.uk


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