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Dementia is one of the biggest global public health challenges facing our generation. In December 2013 Alzheimer’s Disease International released its Global Impact of Dementia 2013- 2050 report. According to the policy briefing paper the number of people living with dementia globally is estimated at 44.35 million and is expected to reach 135.46 million by 2050.
In Australia over 321,600 people lived with dementia in 2013. This figure is expected to increase by over a third in less than ten years. Alzheimer’s Australia estimates that by 2060 public health spending on dementia will reach $83 billion and is set to outstrip that of any other health condition.
Researchers, scientists, non-profit organisations and healthcare professionals are united in their quest to identify the causes of dementia and find treatments to cure the disease and slowdown its progress. However, it will take the initiative of governments to enable further progress. In addition to investment in the search for a cure, the Alzheimer’s Disease International report recommends “to improve access to currently available evidence-based packages of care.” The report identifies international collaboration and information exchange as a key priority to enable any significant development in the fight against dementia, yet “countries worldwide are failing in this basic objective”.
While an early diagnosis is considered a crucial step to intervene the progress of dementia, less than half of those living in high income countries have received a dementia diagnosis. In low and middle income countries fewer than 10 percent have received a diagnosis. This is a particular cause of concern given that new research suggests that by 2050 71 percent of dementia sufferers will live in low and middle income countries in East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
In order to speed up the fight against dementia, the report recommends to learn from the global efforts in combating the HIV epidemic, including:
1) Scaling up effective treatments by further establishing the diagnostic and care systems.
2) Granting affordable access to new diagnostic technologies and drug therapies to low and middle income country markets.
3) Countries involved in global trials should be able to benefit from treatments at subsidised costs.
In February 2014 healthcare professionals, researchers, non-profit organisations and policy makers will meet in Melbourne to discuss the current state of dementia care at the National Dementia Congress. In its 5th year the event will focus on the theme of making dementia care transformation happen today. The conference will also feature a presentation by Nicole Batsch who co-authored the Alzheimer’s Disease International World Alzheimer Report 2012. For more information on the speaker line-up and to register for the two-day event, please visit the National Dementia Congress website.