Adopting more preventive care as their populations age can pay dividends for cash-strapped governments, according to a Pfizer-sponsored report from the Economist Intelligence Unit.

The analysis notes that in 2050, the number of people aged 60 and older worldwide will increase from 605 million to nearly 2 billion. It states that "while it’s good news that people are living longer, the number of older adults who will be affected by long-term, chronic conditions will increase".

The EIU report notes that "global healthcare reforms, increased mobility and evolving attitudes mean that governments must foot the bill for caring for their older citizens". It adds that "these governments are finding it difficult to keep up with the rise in chronic conditions since, to date, most healthcare systems have focused on treating acute illness".

The report sheds light on ways countries are promoting preventive healthcare. Specifically, in Japan, where the proportion of older persons considered healthy and active is predicted to rise from 18.9 million in 2000 to 30.3 million in 2025, employers are required to conduct annual health screenings for every employee.

The EIU analysis notes the case of Brazil which implemented campaigns to encourage adults to get vaccinated to prevent contagious diseases - 90% of people 60 years and older have been vaccinated against influenza. It also highlights initiatives in the USA, where government funding is limited but  large private sector employers are promoting wellness among employees through smoking cessation, diet and exercise programmes, with some holding annual flu vaccine drives.

Katherine Dorr Abreu, the report’s editor, says that "it's crucial for policymakers to consider measures that help ageing individuals remain active and healthy members of society to avoid the heavy burdens associated with the cost of long-term care". She adds that preventive measures "can have up to a fourfold return on investment and can help adults maintain an optimal quality of life as they age".

Jack Watters, head of external medical affairs at Pfizer, concluded that preventive care programmes "must be supported by all stakeholders and integrated into national healthcare systems in order to be successful".