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June 2015: “The World Health Organisation and the World Dementia Council and global action on dementia: what role for the European Union?”

Alliance activities

Austrian MEP Heinz Becker hosted an Alzheimer Europe lunch debate entitled “The World Health Organisation and the World Dementia Council and global action on dementia: what role for the European Union?”

Mr Becker welcomed the participants and introduced the speakers. Dr Tarun Dua, Medical Officer for the Programme for Neurological Diseases and Neuroscience, WHO, was the first of three speakers. She presented “Dementia as a global priority for the World Health Organisation and report on the First Ministerial Conference on Global Action Against Dementia”.

She noted that the number of people with dementia worldwide has tripled since 1950 and will almost triple again by 2050. Currently, there are some 47 million people living with dementia. Dementia clearly has a huge economic impact, which in 2010 was estimated at USD 604 billion or EUR 545 billion. This amounts to 1% of global GDP (gross domestic product), making dementia the equivalent of the world's 18th largest economy.

There is also an uneven distribution in the societal costs of dementia, as the cost for informal care is predominant in countries with lower income. A growing and ageing population will only increase the reliance on informal care.

Dr Dua summarised the current state of affairs as follows: dementia is a major cause of disability in later life that is under-diagnosed or diagnosed late worldwide. There is currently no cure and medicines play only a limited role, while a substantial proportion of care takes place outside the formal health sector. Current care needs include early diagnosis, symptom management, and long-term support.

As a response to these needs, Dr Dua presented several WHO dementia activities, particularly the First Ministerial Conference on Global Action Against Dementia in March 2015. The conference delegates issued a call to action that included the following points:

  • Raise the priority accorded to global efforts to tackle dementia.
  • Advance prevention, risk reduction, diagnosis and treatment of dementia.
  • Facilitate technological and social innovations to meet the needs of people living with dementia and their caregivers.
  • Facilitate the coordinated delivery of health and social care for people living with dementia.

Dr Dua added that the WHO will establish a Global Dementia Observatory that will provide data and analyse trends in dementia burden and response.

The second speaker was Dr Raj Long, UK Government Director for Integrated Development and Senior Regulatory Officer for Integrated Development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Dr Long described the bottlenecks in developing medicines for dementia, citing an overall success rate of only 0.5% versus an average 4.1% rate for the entire pharmaceutical industry. This is being addressed by a new international expert group that aims to remove obstacles and improve on current methods of drug development.

The final speaker was Gill Ayling, Deputy Director of Global action against dementia in the UK. Ms Ayling explained that the efforts of the WHO and Global action against dementia are in step with similar efforts funded by the EU. Ms Ayling also reminded the delegates that no single country, organisation or sector can "solve" dementia on its own; dementia does not recognise national boundaries, status or wealth - and neither will the solutions.

Mr Becker thanked the speakers for their informative presentations. He was joined by Ms Pietikäinen, who said that people with dementia must not be considered as second class citizens and that they should be involved in all of these projects. She also praised Alzheimer Europe and its members for their tremendous work to support people with dementia, adding that they deserve all the funding and resources we can give them.

Delegates at the lunch debate included MEPs Deirdre Clune (Ireland) and Ivo Vajgl (Slovenia), representatives from the pharmaceutical industry and the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), as well as delegates from 23 Alzheimer Europe member associations.



Last Updated: Wednesday 07 October 2015