Mapping levels of palliative care development: a global view

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2008 May;35(5):469-85. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2007.06.006. Epub 2008 Feb 4.


Palliative care is coming to be regarded as a human right. Yet globally, palliative care development appears patchy and comparative data about the distribution of services are generally unavailable. Our purpose is to categorize hospice-palliative care development, country by country, throughout the world, and then depict this development in a series of world and regional maps. We adopt a multimethod approach, which involves the synthesis of evidence from published and grey literature, regional experts, and a task force of the European Association of Palliative Care. Development is categorized using a four-part typology constructed during a previous review of palliative care in Africa. The four categories are (1) no identified hospice-palliative care activity, (2) capacity building activity but no service, (3) localized palliative care provision, and (4) countries where palliative care activities are approaching integration with mainstream service providers. We found palliative care services in 115/234 countries. Total countries in each category are as follows: (1) no identified activity 78 (33%), (2) capacity building 41 (18%), (3) localized provision 80 (34%), and (4) approaching integration 35 (15%). The ratio of services to population among Group 4 countries ranges from 1:43,000 (in the UK) to 1:4.28 million (in Kenya); among Group 3 countries it ranges from 1:14,000 (in Gibraltar) to 1:158 million (in Pakistan). The typology differentiates levels of palliative care development across the four hemispheres and in rich and poor settings. Although half of the world's countries have a palliative care service, far more are needed before such services are generally accessible worldwide.

MeSH terms

  • Africa
  • Developing Countries
  • Hospices
  • Humans
  • Palliative Care / economics
  • Palliative Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Palliative Care / trends*