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Home » Alzheimer's disease, EU Health, Health

ADI’s action plan to fight Alzheimer’s disease

Submitted by on 13 Sep 2017 – 15:08

Paola Barbarino, CEO, Alzheimer’s Disease International addressed the World Health Assembly on the eve of the adoption of the global plan on dementia in May 2017. This September, she is calling for governments to translate global action into local change

 September is World Alzheimer’s Month, the global campaign led by Alzheimer’s Disease International and Alzheimer associations in over 90 countries to raise awareness of dementia. As part of the campaign this year, we are calling on all members of the public to recognise the symptoms and challenge the stigma associated with the disease. We are also asking governments to act by developing a tailored national response to the challenges posed by dementia care, science and research in their countries.

In Europe, dementia affects over 10 million people; approximately one in five people over the age of 80 or one in every 20 people over the age of 65. Diagnosed in approximately 50% of cases in high income countries, dementia is the only major chronic disease area without a cure. Increasing coverage of diagnosis, and quality care, is therefore essential.

Faced with a rapidly ageing population, Europe must do more to provide equitable, accessible care for those affected, their families and care partners. In 2018, dementia will become a trillion-dollar disease – costing the global economy more than heart disease or diabetes.

The World Alzheimer Report 2016 shows that strengthening the healthcare response to dementia, a key component of national plans, can reduce this cost by up to 40%.

Increased attention to prevention of dementia through awareness of risks including inactivity, smoking and isolation can also lower the impact of the condition, as well as help reducing the impact of other non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and depression.

Since 2005, there have been 30 national plans to address dementia. These contain guidance for raising awareness, training of health professionals and care partners, diagnosis and access to treatment, coordination of care and for research.

The focus is of course on the individual needs of the population of each country. The global plan on dementia adopted by the World Health Organisation in 2017 echoes the message that more is needed, and includes a target for 145 plans by 2025.

In Europe, dementia plans have been established in 16 out of 44 states and countries. Measured against the strategic priorities of the global plan in the 7 areas of public health prioritisation: awareness, risk reduction, diagnosis, support, information systems and research, most contain elements of just three of these. Those in the Netherlands, Norway and the UK (England and Scotland) are the only plans to address the important issue of research and innovation for improving understanding, care and treatment of dementia. In addition, ADI recommends that at least 1% of the societal cost of dementia in each country is invested into research.

Plans must be effectively funded with a commitment to meet and monitor the targets set. In Scotland, the third national plan on dementia, published in June 2017, contains a chapter entitled ‘Where we are now’. I urge that other countries in Europe adopt a similar approach to ensure that plans, where implemented, are kept alive in both practice and planning.

Achievements of these plans include significant steps forward in the realisation of dementia friendly communities and initiatives. Recognition of the rights and importance of including people living with dementia in the matters that affect them, including working rights, legal counsel and access to support, has led much of this process.

There is much to look forward to. The adoption of a global plan opens the door of a new era for dementia in Europe. Policy makers and stakeholders, including Alzheimer associations and people living with dementia, can use this framework to demand that governments act.

World Alzheimer’s Month is an exciting time to join the global campaign for this change. Join us on World Alzheimer’s Day, 21 September by asking what your government can do now to raise awareness and prioritise dementia