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Australia ahead on dementia as rest of world lags


The peak international body of dementia associations has listed Australia among a relatively small group of nations to have developed a national dementia framework in keeping with global targets set by the World Health Organisation two years ago.

The majority of the WHO’s 194 member states are accused of dragging their feet and standing in the way of the organisation’s deadline being met.

Paolo Barbarino

Member states adopted the WHO’s Global Action Plan on the Public Health Response to Dementia in 2017, which aims for 75 per cent of the 194 signatories to have national dementia strategies by 2025.

But a report by Alzheimer’s Disease International released in Geneva this month found that despite a target of 146 member states implementing a plan by 2025, only 26 have done so.

“The thrust of this important report is that there is an urgent need for action,” CEO of ADI Paola Barbarino says.

“We are still far from reaching the targets established two years ago. We need more and we need more now, as the crisis of dementia deepens – so many people with Alzheimer’s and dementia and their families continue to struggle, often alone.”

‘No way’ targets will be met

Two years after the launch of the WHO  global action ADI says with a shortfall of 120 member states, there’s “no way” WHO targets will be met.

In the last two years only Chile and Qatar have created plans, meaning at the current rate the 2025 target will fall well short, ADI says.

“Two years on from the commitment made by 194 countries at the World Health Assembly, the pace of progress is still too slow. World governments must recognise the crisis we’re facing now and proactively work to ensure they’re prepared for the dementia emergency at a national level,” Ms Barbarino says.

She says Japan, South Korea, England and Scotland are leading the way on dementia action plans, but it isn’t enough.

“We are seeing development in keys areas like risk reduction research, however, the search for disease modifying treatments continues to be underfunded and the application of better care interventions remains elusive. In the meantime, millions of people living with dementia and their families are under terrible strain,” she said.

Australia on track

ADI lists Australia’s National Framework on Dementia among the international dementia plans that are currently in place, but says funding is inadequate.

However the report says pharmacological and medical research is being led by a “a handful of committed and productive nations – first and foremost, the US, UK and Australia”.

Australia is also part of the Word Wide FINGERS program, an interdisciplinary network, as well as the three-year joint EU Cognisance program focusing on diagnosis and post diagnostic care.

The WHO action plan also aims to see 75 per cent of countries provide support and training for carers of people with dementia by 2025 and has developed an online program, iSupport, to provide this.

The program  is being adapted in multiple countries including Australia, ADI says.

The report also singles Australia out as one of only a few nations to have a dementia data registry, but notes there is still work to be done.

“Only a few nations have registries or are planning to set them up. The USA, UK, Netherlands and Australia are the main ones,” it says.

“But the type and quality of registries vary hugely and the way that people living with dementia can access them and the way their medical professionals can point them out to them vary too.”

The ADI commends South Korea for its National Dementia Plan, which it says is “one of the best in the world in all areas bar research”.

But it points out there are zero national dementia plans in sub-Saharan Africa, which represents 46 countries and is expected to see the second largest proportionate increase in the number of people living with dementia by 2025.

There are currently 50 million people living with dementia around the world, ADI says. That’s expected to grow to 152 million by 2050.

ADI released its report at a side event to the 72nd World Health Assembly on May 21.

Components of a national plan

  • Awareness and education
  • Risk reduction
  • Diagnosis and access to treatment
  • Support at home and for carers
  • Training for health professionals
  • Human rights and disability support
  • Research

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One Response to Australia ahead on dementia as rest of world lags

  1. Kate Swaffer June 1, 2019 at 3:06 pm #

    Frankly, I disagree that Australia is leading the world. If it was so good, we would not currently be having a Royal Commission into Aged and Dementia Care. Seriously, this is a biased article.

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