The Australian government must implement a national preventative health campaign to reduce the projected figure of one million Australians who will have dementia by 2050, or else suffer the consequences, an Alzheimer’s Australia report said.

The peak body providing support and advocacy for people living with dementia has called on all major political parties to add another dimension to their election campaign- serious investment in preventative health to combat the predicted dementia epidemic.

The recently released discussion paper, Towards a National Dementia Preventative Health Strategy, outlined the urgent need for a federal campaign which would incorporate dementia into existing heart disease, diabetes and obesity programs.

“Failure to act now could see dementia projections realised, with major consequences for Australian society, our health and economy,” the report said.

“The benefits of incorporating dementia prevention into our national preventative health strategy are likely to be far-reaching and support a number of diverse national health goals, including improvements in cardiovascular disease.

“In an ageing society, dementia prevention strategies need to be part of a national plan to keep us healthy, both in our youth and well into old age, in both mind and in body.”

The report rated a prevention campaign as “one of the most promising means of reducing future dementia prevalence,” as many of the risk factors for the disease align with other major chronic conditions including heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

Alzheimer’s Australia also requested government funding for its Mind Your Mind program to promote awareness of dementia risk reduction.

CEO of Alzheimer’s Australia, Glenn Rees, said that the program will teach Australians to reduce their risk by adopting specific lifestyle behaviours.

“We are seeking $4.5 million over three years to roll out Mind Your Mind nationally. This is a small price to pay to raise awareness and educate Australians about dementia risk reduction,” Mr Rees said.

“With the cost of dementia care set to outstrip any other health condition, the new strategy not only makes sense in terms of reducing the numbers of people with dementia, but also because of the potential impact on the health care budget.”

The organsiation has also called for extra funding for dementia research as compared to other chronic diseases, it is currently grossly underfunded.

“Australia and other countries have responded to the fear of cancer by an attitude of ‘let’s beat it’ through considerable investment in medical research,” he said.

“The same positive attitude is necessary to address the dementia epidemic.”
 

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