Health is a component of and a key resource for human development. It results from a cumulative process of continuous interaction between exposures and experiences, which have an impact at both the individual and population levels, not only episodically but over time, and with trans-generational effects (1). The increase in human life expectancy by approximately 30 years over the last century provides a compelling reason to expand health-related goals beyond simple survival (2, 3).
In the Region of the Americas, the effort to increase life expectancy has been successful; however, the increase in healthy life expectancy has not kept pace. On average, 8 of every 10 people who are born in the Region will live beyond age 60, and more than 4 in 10 will live past 80 (4). One-quarter of those who live past 80 will live with poor health (4). According to estimates, people in the Region live on average 9 years with functional limitations or disability (5). An increased lifespan, but with longer periods of illness and dependence on care provided by others, is a great burden for States, societies, and families, and a significant challenge for public health.