28th September 2013 Ottawa, Canada

Dementia: A Global Challenge

Courtesy of Jacob A. Geller
Courtesy of Jacob A. Geller

September 2013 marks the second World Alzheimer’s Month, reflecting the growing urgency and concern over the health, social and economic burden of the disease. Alzheimer’s disease is a common form of dementia. Today, it is estimated that over 35 million people worldwide currently live with the condition, and this number is expected to double by 2030 and more than triple by 2050 to 115 million.

To give a sense of the economic impact of dementia, the total estimated worldwide costs are around US$604 billion in 2010, accounting for 1% of the world’s gross domestic product. In essence, if dementia were a country, it would be the 18th largest economy! And if it were a company, it would be the world’s largest, beating out Wal-Mart and Exxon Mobil.

The social stigma surrounding dementia is another added burden for both those living with and those caring for patients with dementia.

It is not hard to see how Alzheimer’s disease is one of the biggest global public health challenges facing the current generation. And as such, a solution to this challenge requires an integrated and well designed global approach, starting with the identification of individual national action plans.

“If scientists could delay the onset of Alzheimer’s by five years, we could halve the number of people who die with the disease.”

– Forecasting the global burden of Alzheimer’s disease’ Brookemeyer et. al. Alzheimer’s and Dementia 2007 Jul; 3(3): 186-91

In the UK alone, dementia presents a national crisis, with costs associated climbing up to nearly £23 billion annually, surpassing those associated with cancer, strokes or heart disease. Recognizing this as a call to action, Prime Minister David Cameron launched the Dementia Challenge in 2012 to tackle the issue at three key levels:

1. Improving the health and social care systems to improve the way people with dementia are diagnosed, treated and care for
2. Engaging communities, charities and businesses involved in the fight against dementia
3. Accelerating research into treatments and cures, with a doubling of the total funding by 2015

“It’s sobering that there has not been a successful treatment for Alzheimer’s disease in more than a decade”

– Howard Chertkow (McGill University) at the Canadian Consortium for Neurodegeneration in Ageing First Partners’ Forum

More recently, the UK is leveraging its G8 Presidency to bring the spotlight on Dementia by hosting the first G8 Dementia Summit. The summit will bring together health ministers, researchers and major industry stakeholders to lead an international action on tackling the condition, with particular focus on immediate and concrete solutions. More broadly, the summit will promote an international dialogue on the following:

1. Benefits of international research collaboration in dementia
2. Reducing the barriers to international collaboration
3. Mobilizing current knowledge on dementia
4. Engaging businesses and industry in improving quality of life

Our SIN Canada team is well positioned to promote just such research collaborations between major stakeholders in the dementia space. More recently, we had the unique opportunity to be invited to the CIHR’s First Partners’ Forum to launch the Canadian Consortium for Neurodegeneration in Ageing (CCNA).

The CCNA is a pan-Canadian initiative that will bring together the best in dementia research to partake in transformative research. This will catapult Canada to lead and participate in international efforts with congruent goals.

SIN Canada has already began tapping into this emerging resource and has been active in forging new links between the CCNA and the UK’s Dementia Research Platform to promote greater bi-lateral partnerships between the two countries.

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