Alzheimer’s Australia national presidnet, Ita Buttrose, talks to the media about the Fight Dementia campaign on the front lawn of Parliament House, Canberra, earlier this year.


By Yasmin Noone

The price of slashing Australia’s dementia prevalence rate by a third by 2050 is around $200 million worth of federal government money, according to Alzheimer’s Australia, which has kickstarted a new campaign to create a world without dementia.

The consumer advocacy group has today launched part two of its Fight Dementia campaign, which focuses on attaining $200 million worth of Commonwealth funding over five years, earmarked specifically for research purposes.

As part of the Fight Dementia Campaign: Towards a World Without Dementia, Alzheimer’s Australia wants the Commonwealth to commit to its five-year research funding plan and to have the funding stream start at the turn of the 2013/14 financial year.

National president of Alzheimer’s Australia, Ita Buttrose, said that compared to other chronic diseases, dementia research is grossly underfunded.

“Yet research funding is vital,” Ms Buttrose said.

“It is the key to developing new treatments and identifying ways to reduce the risk of developing dementia.

“If researchers had the funds to develop new interventions to delay the onset of dementia by just five years, the number of people with dementia in Australia in 2050 would be reduced by one third.

“If we can delay onset of dementia for long enough, many Australians will have a chance to live a dementia-free life.

“Although this might sound ambitious, our approach in is no different from the approach taken to other chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease or HIV/AIDS.”

Since the launch of the Fight Dementia Campaign in October last year, Alzheimer’s Australia has successfully achieved almost $269 million of funding through the Living Longer Living Better reform package to tackle dementia issues in the health and aged care system and recently, dementia was listed as Australia’s ninth national health priority.

But, the group say, no money has yet come through for research and the government has not made any commitment to increase investment in dementia research.

We mean action

To coincide with the campaign launch, Alzheimer’s Australia also released its Action Plan brief today.

“Government investment in dementia research through the NHMRC was $24 million in 2011-12; less than every other National Health Priority Area apart from asthma,” the action plan states.

“An extra $200 million over five years will bring the total government investment in dementia research through the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC; the major source of public funding for research) to around $60 million per year. This will be equivalent to one per cent of the $6 billion direct cost of dementia care.”

The paper nominated the campaign’s three-fold goal – to delay the onset of dementia by five years; reduce the number of people living with dementia in 2050 by one third; and improve quality of life for people with dementia.

“Investment in health and medical research is a proven approach to reducing these future health and economic challenges. For every dollar invested in health and medical research the average return in health benefits is $2.17.

“Investment in research through the NHMRC between 2000 and 2010 is projected to have saved $966 million to the health care system and projected gains of $6 billion linked to increased well-being.

“We need to ensure that Australian consumers receive the full benefits of the newest breakthroughs as soon as they possibly can.”

Alzheimer’s Australia CEO, Glenn Rees, said he remains positive that the campaign – with the support of the community – can achieve its goals in time for the release of the 2013/14 federal government budget.

“Dementia is expected to be the third greatest cost to the health system within 20 years. Investment in health and medical research is the best way to address these future costs,” Mr Rees said.

“I am optimistic that our campaign will be as successful in the 2013-14 Federal Budget as it was in this year’s federal budget.

“I also anticipate that we will continue to receive bipartisan support. This is the only way Australia has a chance at long-term policy change and at working towards a ‘World Without Dementia’.”

Call for campaign support

Alzheimer’s Australia has contacted its Fight Dementia campaign supporters, ‘dementia champions’, via email today, asking for their continued assistance in ridding Australia of dementia.

It has requested that dementia champions write to their Federal MP or Senator, voice their concerns about the lack of research funding and inform them of their personal dementia stories; like the campaign’s Facebook page, and more.

For more information about the campaign, go to www.campaign.fightdementia.org.au or email fightdementia@alzheimers.org.au
 

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