A Global Health Crisis

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WHO adopts an action plan to address dementia worldwide



The number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease worldwide is expected to almost double every 20 years for the foreseeable future. Exponentially more individuals, families, communities and governments will be affected by Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, putting pressure on many aspects of society.

It’s a global public health crisis. So the World Health Organization has adopted an action plan that includes policies and resources for the care of people with dementia; promotion of dementia research, treatments and cures; raising public awareness; creating dementia-friendly communities and making dementia a priority for national and global governments.

In many parts of the world, awareness and understanding of dementia are minimal. People living with it are often stigmatized. There are barriers to diagnosis and care, and caregivers, families and societies are impacted physically, psychologically and economically.

The annual cost of dementia worldwide is more than $1 trillion, encompassing medical expenses, social care and informal costs such as loss of income for family caregivers. The projected annual cost by 2030 is expected to top $2.5 trillion.

“Dementia is an inherently complex and multifaceted issue that affects us at a global and a local level,” says Barb Ferguson, executive director of the Alzheimer Society of Calgary, adding she’s pleased to see the WHO’s priorities align with those of Dementia Network Calgary.

Created in 2013, the network is a community collaborative committed to helping local families live well with dementia, for which the Alzheimer Society of Calgary provides operational support.

“The WHO’s global action plan gives us confidence that we are headed in the right direction,” Ferguson says. “Our aim is to provide additional insight and support further action planning for our own region.”

Mike Conroy, president and CEO of the Brenda Strafford Foundation, echoes Ferguson’s thoughts, noting that recognition of dementia as a health priority is also reflected in the Alberta government’s dementia strategy. The foundation is leading a Dementia Friendly Communities pilot project on behalf of the province.

“We are experiencing first-hand a groundswell of support from communities ready to take action to ensure citizens impacted by dementia are supported to maintain a high quality of life in the communities they live,” Conroy says. “Together, we must find innovative and community-focused solutions to ensure that we meet the needs of individuals living with dementia and their caregivers. Everyone has a role.”  [ ]

For more on the World Health Organization, go to who.int. For more on Dementia Network Calgary, go to dementianetworkcalgary.ca.