Global action on palliative care

17th January 2017

Salzburg Global Seminar is a non-profit organization that hosts programmes on global topics such as healthcare, education, culture, economics and geopolitics.

In December 2016 Professor Irene Higginson, Scientific Director of Cicely Saunders International, and Dr Richard Harding, Reader at the Cicely Saunders Institute, attended a session called “Rethinking Care Toward the End of Life”.  The 60 participants were drawn from all regions of the world.  They included health and social care leaders and practitioners, patient advocates, innovators, ethicists and policymakers, along with representatives of civil society, the media and other stakeholders in the debate.   Discussion focused on urgent global priorities, identifying best practice and patients’ preferences and the importance of public engagement and debate in ensuring that innovation and the most effective use of resources translate across national borders and across the social spectrum.

Some key questions addressed in the seminars and workshops were:

How do we engage patients and families to ensure that end of life care honours what matters most to them, with respect for culture and for context at the level of the individual and the population?

What are the relative contributions of healthcare and community-based social care in different contexts? How can they best be joined up to maintain function, independence, and agency for people for whom death is near?

How can health care systems better support families, care-givers and community members in caring for people of all ages for whom death is near?

How are robust processes established and implemented for arriving at decisions when patients can no longer express their own preferences? What role does public engagement and government have in this?

Which are the most promising evidence-based and cost-effective innovations in care towards the end of life? What yields greatest value to patients, especially in low resource settings?

What can we learn from the systems failures in high income countries with regard to supporting patients, families and care-givers with palliative care?

How can palliative care best be undertaken in the context of societal deprivation or conflict?


Participants related their own experiences and challenges in providing palliative and end of life care in different contexts.  Key outputs from the seminar will include a global campaign to raise debate and new approaches to education and measurement.

Read newsletters from the seminar, including quotes from participants