Executive Director, Alzheimer’s Disease International
Over 47 million people are living with dementia in 2016 and this number is expected to almost triple by 2050. A Draft Global Action Plan on Dementia being developed by the WHO has the potential to spearhead dementia care globally.
Dementia is one of the most significant health crises of the 21st century. The joint World Health Organization (WHO) and Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) report, Dementia: A Global Health Priority recommended in 2012 that every country should have a national dementia plan or strategy. By that time there were less than 10 countries from the 193 member states of WHO with such a plan. Lead by the UK, the G8 Summit on Dementia in London in December 2013 has accelerated the creation of these plans in more countries, not only in the main economies, but also in some lower and middle-income countries like Costa Rica, Mexico, Cuba and Indonesia.
Most of these plans have a number of elements in common: the need to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, promotion of timely diagnosis, support for people with dementia and their carers, improving of care at home and in institutions and stimulation of research. Countries that monitored results, like France, Netherlands, Scotland and Japan, have followed up with a second and third plan and tend to focus more on specific areas to improve. An example is the one year follow up guarantee in Scotland for everyone with a diagnosis of dementia. Since the G8 Summit we also see increased public research budgets for dementia research in for instance USA, UK, France, Netherlands and Japan. A personal involvement of heads of government may have contributed as well. These were former President Sarkozy in France, Prime Minister David Cameron in the UK and most recently Prime Minister Abe from Japan.
In some larger countries there were also sub-national dementia plans developed by states or provinces, for instance the state of Kerala in India. The city of San Francisco was the first with a comprehensive city plan.
In May of this year the historic adoption of a resolution to develop a Global Action Plan on dementia was championed by the governments of Switzerland and Dominican Republic at the annual World Health Organization meeting in Geneva. This plan was formally adopted by the Executive Board of WHO and is the single most exciting step in achieving greater recognition, care and understanding of dementia to be taken in many years.
A draft of the Global Action Plan is now in the process of consultation by WHO member states and all stakeholders and will be finalised in May 2017.
The plan will provide an important foundation on which more countries will engage with dementia in their own communities, including the important recognition of human rights for people with dementia and the implementation of care and resources for people living with dementia, their care-partners and families. Crucially, it is hoped that this will accelerate action in many countries where dementia still attracts stigma and is faced with lack of understanding. On World Alzheimer’s Day 2016 we are calling on the WHO and governments around the world to sustain this surge in political will and ensure the maximum impact of the Global Plan on Dementia and an increased urgency for the development of additional plans and policies to tackle dementia worldwide.