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Understanding Dementia 2019

Solving the health crisis of our time – dementia


Helen Davies

Head of Public Affairs at Alzheimer’s Research UK

In the coming weeks, the government will make decisions about support for dementia research that will have a major impact on our ability to overcome the condition. This means the UK now faces a unique window of opportunity to ensure dementia research receives the funding it needs to transform lives.

Right now, dementia is the UK’s leading cause of death and costs our economy £26bn each year.

A recent Alzheimer’s Research UK poll shows that one in two people know someone living with the condition.

This is a condition that is permeating our lives, straining our health system, and stealing our loved ones from us. No one has ever survived dementia and we still cannot effectively treat or prevent the condition entirely.

Research investment can change the future

The government’s Challenge on Dementia, a five-year commitment to make progress for dementia research and care, is currently under review. At the end of this review, the government will decide whether to continue the Challenge on Dementia and, if so, what goals to include.

This is a critical opportunity to capitalise on the good progress made so far, to set ambitious, world-leading research goals, and to bring about new treatments for dementia.

Through the current Challenge, the government has doubled the funding put towards researching effective treatments, surpassing the goal of £60 million a year and investing over £80 million annually in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

The government must not only continue funding potentially life-saving research through the Challenge but scale up future ambition to meet the crisis at hand.

No one has ever survived dementia.

Fairer funding for dementia research

With long-term and sustained funding, breakthrough treatments now exist for health conditions like HIV/AIDS and cancer. But despite moves to increase funding, financial support for dementia research has lagged behind other serious conditions, resulting in slower progress in our ability to treat people with dementia.

In 2017-18, the government committed £82.5m, or 0.3%, of the annual cost of dementia towards researching the condition. In comparison, 1.6% of the cost of cancer was put towards cancer research in the last year on record.

Just 1% can transform lives

As the UK’s leading dementia research charity, Alzheimer’s Research UK is calling on the government to increase research spending to just 1% of the annual cost of dementia by 2025 to transform research efforts.

Earlier this year nearly 35,000 people backed this call when they signed our petition to the government. And the call, which has been echoed by Alzheimer’s Disease International, aligns with recent commitments to research funding made by the United States.

Increasing dementia research funding to 1% would accelerate breakthroughs like those made for other health conditions, which have already transformed thousands of lives.

We know that, without an intervention or treatment, one in three people born today will go on to develop dementia. We owe them better futures.

The government must join us in leading the way to make dementia breakthroughs possible.

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