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Frailty syndrome: implications and challenges for health care policy

Authors Kojima G, Liljas AEM, Iliffe S

Received 23 September 2018

Accepted for publication 24 January 2019

Published 14 February 2019 Volume 2019:12 Pages 23—30

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/RMHP.S168750

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Colin Mak

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Kent Rondeau


Gotaro Kojima,1 Ann EM Liljas,2 Steve Iliffe1

1Department of Primary Care and Population Health, University College London, London, UK; 2Department of Public Health Sciences, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract: Older adults are a highly heterogeneous group with variable health and functional life courses. Frailty has received increasing scientific attention as a potential explanation of the health diversity of older adults. The frailty phenotype and the Frailty Index are the most frequently used frailty definitions, but recently new frailty definitions that are more practical have been advocated. Prevalence of frailty among the community-dwelling population aged 65 years and older is ~10% but varies depending on which frailty definitions are used. The mean prevalence of frailty gradually increases with age, but the individual’s frailty level can be improved. Older adults, especially frail older adults, form the main users of medical and social care services. However, current health care systems are not well prepared to deal with the chronic and complex medical needs of frail older patients. In this context, frailty is potentially a perfect fit as a risk stratification paradigm. The evidence from frailty studies has not yet been fully translated into clinical practice and health care policy making. Successful implementation would improve quality of care and promote healthy aging as well as diminish the impact of aging on health care systems and strengthen their sustainability. At present, however, there is no effective treatment for frailty and the most effective intervention is not yet known. Based on currently available evidence, multi-domain intervention trials, including exercise component, especially multicomponent exercise, which includes resistance training, seem to be promising. The current challenges in frailty research include the lack of an international standard definition of frailty, further understanding of interventions to reverse frailty, the best timing for intervention, and education/training of health care professionals. The hazards of stigmatization should also be considered. If these concerns are properly addressed, widespread application of public health approaches will be possible, including screening, identification, and treatment of frailty, resulting in better care and healthier aging for older people.

Keywords: frailty, health care policy, geriatrics


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