World Dementia Council sets ambitious action plan to tackle escalating global dementia crisis

'Dementia is one of the most urgent global health challenges and is not solvable by any one country, organisation or individual alone' Dr Yves Joanette, Chair of the World Dementia Council.

At the first meeting of the independent World Dementia Council (WDC) in Toronto, an ambitious action plan was agreed by members to avert the global burden of dementia becoming unsustainable. The Council was unanimous in its decision to prioritise work in five key areas:

  • Fostering a culture of open science and collaborative global research, including the use of global big data approaches
  • Increasing the speed and reliability of delivering innovative medicines through efficient and effective integrated drug development
  • Advancing levels of innovative and global public and private finance
  • Ensuring the quality of life and delivery of quality care for people living with dementia and the provision of relevant and appropriate support to their carers
  • Reducing the risk of dementia through lifestyle and other approaches

The WDC will act decisively to influence all stakeholders including heads of state and health, care and finance ministries, business, industry and the research community to step up their response as the prevalence and cost of dementia continues to soar.

The number of people with dementia worldwide is estimated to be 47.5 million. This is predicted to rise to 75.6 million by 2030, and almost triple by 2050 to 135.5 million. This is largely due to the increase in low-and middle-income countries, where 63% of disease burden falls - yet they have the least capacity to cope. From 2015 to 2050, people living with dementia will almost double in Europe, somewhat more than double in North America, triple in Asia and quadruple in Latin America and Africa.*

At the meeting, council members from Nigeria, Indonesia and Taiwan highlighted work to address the increasing prevalence of dementia in low-and middle-income countries, including the adoption of national plans and Dementia Friends initiatives. They outlined the specific challenges faced, including the need to promote risk reduction strategies in ageing populations and the unsustainable reliance on informal care.

The World Dementia Council has a unique role to play in coordinating the global efforts to face the challenge of dementia and to help supporting the millions of people living with this devastating condition. In February of this year, the Council expanded from 19 to 24 members covering six continents. With expertise across a wide range of sectors including research and academia, business, industry, charity, regulators and people living with dementia, the WDC promotes collaboration and strives to ensure adequate priority is given to dementia in national and global political agendas.

Speaking after the meeting, Chair of the WDC and Scientific Director at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Institute of Aging, Dr Yves Joanette, said:

'Dementia is one of the most urgent global health challenges and is not solvable by any one country, organisation or individual alone. To complement the actions of the World Health Organization, the Council will tackle areas where it's members have a unique added-value, such as identifying and promoting new and innovative funding models, and bringing together all stakeholders within an integrated drug development environment. At the same time, the Council will work with its stakeholders to advance on all its other priorities, connecting the dots and ensuring a truly global approach that includes the specific needs of low and middle-income countries.'

'We must think outside the box to address the grave and growing challenge of dementia. Where there is an unprecedented need, as there is here, we must do something different' offered Raj Long, Vice Chair of the World Dementia Council and Senior Advisor at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 'If we don’t have the passion to break the mould, it won’t happen. We must have the will and the state of mind to take on the challenge of this disease.'

The WDC strongly believe in the importance of the voice of those individuals living with dementia in helping identify the global priorities. Hilary Doxford, WDC member and person living with dementia, commented:

'Tackling dementia should be the business of every government. Having been diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2012, I know first-hand how it can turn lives upside down and inside out, but being a member of the WDC gives me hope that if we all join forces we can, and must, maintain the momentum of the last few years and turn the tide on dementia.'