Australia has a leading role to play in the international response to the increasing prevalence of dementia, with a new report showing that by 2050 more than half of the 135 million people with the disease will be living in the Asia Pacific region.
The report, released this morning, gives added urgency to the calls for increased awareness, research, education and training in the region, said Glenn Rees, chair elect of Alzheimer’s Disease International, which authored the research.
The report said the Asia Pacific region accounts for more than 30 per cent of worldwide dementia costs, or US$185 billion.
Mr Rees said that Australia was a leader in the Asia Pacific in developing and implementing national action plans on dementia, and was well positioned to share its knowledge and training programs with developing countries.
“It is estimated that 58 per cent of those with dementia currently live in low and middle income countries, and this figure is set to rise to 71 per cent by 2050,” he said.
The report said the Asia Pacific region faced specific challenges relating to dementia including limited awareness of dementia and in many countries a cultural context that denied its existence or attached stigma; an assumption that dementia was a natural part of ageing; inadequate human and financial resources; limited policy; and inadequate training for professional carers and family carers.
Ellen Skladzien, national policy manager at Alzheimer’s Australia, said that given successive Australian governments had funded dementia research and initiatives over the past decade, Australia was well positioned to be a leader in the region.
“Dementia is now a national health priority area; we have a significant investment in research and services. There is an opportunity to share some of the things we have learned in terms of policy development, as well as the more practical areas like training with the rest of the region,” Ms Skladzien told Australian Ageing Agenda.
While Ms Skladzien acknowledged the recent funding boost to dementia research by the Federal Government, she said the ongoing challenge was translating findings “across borders”, noting that many countries in the region did not have similar resources in research.
Blueprint for action
On an international level, the ADI report made a series of recommendations for governments in the Asia Pacific region, including education campaigns about dementia, bolstering health and community systems’ ability to respond, and raising awareness of risk reduction strategies.
Asked what strategies Alzheimer’s Australia would be pushing with the Federal Government, Ms Skladzien highlighted the National Dementia Action Plan which is currently under consideration. “We’d be recommending that the new version of the plan is released promptly, but I understand that’s underway and in the process of being consulted on.”
She also nominated the need to focus on the social aspects of dementia and work on dementia friendly communities, “trying to ensure that dementia is seen not just as a health and care issue but as a social issue.”
Access the full report: Dementia in the Asia Pacific Region