World does not manage to face the challenge of dementia

Only a quarter of the world’s countries have a national policy, strategy or plan to support people with dementia and their families, according to the WHO Global Status Report on Public Health Response to Dementia, released today. Half of these countries belong to the WHO European Region, the rest are spread across the other regions. But even in Europe, many plans are running out or have already expired, suggesting that governments need to re-engage.

At the same time, according to the report, the number of people with dementia is growing: the WHO estimates that more than 55 million people (8.1% of women and 5.4% of men over 65 years of age) live with dementia. This number is expected to increase to 78 million by 2030 and to 139 million by 2050.

Dementia robs millions of people of their memories, independence and dignity, but it also robs us of the people we know and love. The world is failing people with dementia, and it hurts us all. Four years ago, governments agreed on clear goals for improving dementia care. But goals alone are not enough. We need concerted action to ensure that all people with dementia are able to live with the support and dignity they deserve.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization.

The report highlights the urgent need to increase support at national level, both in terms of caring for people with dementia and the people who provide such care, in both formal and informal contexts.

In order to have a better chance of success, dementia research efforts must have a clear direction and be better coordinated. For this reason, WHO is developing the Dementia Research Plan, a global coordination mechanism to structure research efforts and stimulate new initiatives.

Dr. Tarun Dua, Head of the Department of Brain Health at WHO

An important focus of future research efforts should be the inclusion of people with dementia and their carers and families. Currently, in two-thirds of the countries that report to the Global Dementia Observatory, people with dementia are “rarely” or not affected at all.

Fortunately, countries in all regions have made good progress in running public awareness campaigns to improve public understanding of dementia, with strong civil society leadership. Two thirds of the countries reporting to the Observatory have carried out awareness-raising campaigns. And two-thirds have taken measures to improve the accessibility of the physical and social environment for people with dementia and to train and educate groups outside the health and social sectors, such as volunteers, police, fire fighters and first aiders.

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