WHO and Alzheimer's Disease International say Dementia a Global Health Priority

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Landmark data released today by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Alzheimer's Disease International (ADI) in their first-ever report on the global impact of dementia: Dementia: A Public Health Priority show that around the world a new case of dementia occurs every four seconds. That is the equivalent of 7.7 million new cases each year. In the words of global health expert Dr. Peter Piot, dementia is a 'ticking time bomb.'

Yet, of the WHO member countries, only eight have dementia plans in place: AustraliaDenmarkFranceJapan, Korea, the NetherlandsNorway and the United Kingdom, with the United States currently developing a plan. Canada, however, has yet to get started on the development of a plan.

"The WHO report serves as a wake-up call for the Canadian Government to show leadership in planning for the impact of dementia on our health-care system and on the people living with this devastating disease," says Naguib Gouda, CEO at the Alzheimer Society of Canada.

With input from four working groups of experts and nearly two dozen international contributors, today's report is designed to compel world governments to replicate some of the solutions and approaches already adopted by countries to tackle the skyrocketing numbers of dementia affecting 35.6 million people worldwide.

"WHO recognizes the size and complexity of the dementia challenge and urges countries to view dementia as a critical public health priority," says Dr. Shekhar Saxena, one of the report's project leaders and Director of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO.

In 2010 the Alzheimer Society of Canada sounded the alarm with its own seminal report, Rising Tide: The Impact of Dementia on Canadian Society. It highlighted the rapidly increasing prevalence of dementia that will affect 1.1 million Canadians in less than 25 years, and the rising economic costs that are expected to increase tenfold to $153 billion a year.

Rising Tide also recommended five evidence-based solutions to reduce the burden of dementia and improve the well-being of those affected. These include prioritizing research, raising awareness about prevention, promoting early diagnosis and management, strengthening workforce training and capacity and implementing responsive care and health service delivery, especially for caregivers. But so far, little action has been taken by the Federal Government.

"We can no longer afford to be idle," adds Gouda. "We're asking the Government to put Canada on the world map and make dementia a health priority. We can improve the outcomes for Canadians living with this debilitating disease if we build on the strengths of our current resources and implement a truly cross-government, cross-sector approach."

Dementia is a term that refers to a group of brain disorders whose symptoms include loss of memory, judgment and reasoning, and changes in mood and behaviour. Brain function is affected enough to interfere with a person's ability to function at work, in relationships or in everyday activities. Alzheimer's disease is the most common form, accounting for about two thirds of all dementias in Canada. It is a relentless and unforgiving condition that can last up to 20 years. The causes and cure are unknown.

Dementia is not a normal part of aging even though age remains the predominant risk factor. After 65, the risk for dementia doubles every five years. According to Statistics Canada, the number of seniors in Canada will jump to 9.8 million by 2036.

To join our campaign for a national dementia plan, or to download a copy of the WHO or Rising Tide report, visit alzheimer.ca/WHOreport