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Dementia Experts Call on WHO to Make Alzheimer's an Urgent Health Priority

  • Published: 2011-03-27 : Author: Alzheimer Society of Canada
  • Synopsis: Taking action on the dramatic surge in the global incidence of Alzheimers disease and dementia.

Dementia experts call on World Health Organization - and Canadian government - to make Alzheimer's disease an urgent health priority.

On Sunday March 27 leaders at the 26th Annual Conference of Alzheimer's Disease International (ADI) will challenge the World Health Organization (WHO) and countries around the world to take action on the dramatic surge in the global incidence of Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

A plenary session called The Public Health Agenda will address the impact of the swelling numbers of people with dementia worldwide. By 2050, the number of people with dementia around the world is expected to reach 115 million. Economic costs are already hitting $604 billion annually. Marc Wortmann, ADI Executive Director, will call on WHO to make dementia a top global health priority and urge world governments, especially Canada's, to develop national strategies to deal with the impending crisis.

"The Canadian government needs to step up to the plate. It trails behind the UK, Australia, France, South Korea and other countries in terms of having a plan in place. Even your neighbors to the south have agreed to develop one," says Wortmann. "The Rising Tide report of the Alzheimer Society of Canada clearly demonstrates the urgency for your country."

If a federal election is called the Alzheimer Society of Canada will be asking Canadians to urge their candidates to make a national dementia strategy an election issue. Since the 2010 release of Rising Tide: The Impact of Dementia on Canadian Society, the Federal Government has taken no real action. Also speaking at the session is Scott Dudgeon, the author of the report, who will press the government by highlighting the financial and social pressures of dementia on Canada: the number of Canadians with dementia will double to 1.3 million within 25 years with a cumulative cost of $872 billion. The report also reveals an increasing number of Canadians with dementia, about 15 per cent, are now under the age of 65.

People directly impacted by the disease stand to benefit the most from dementia strategies. Christine Bryden, an Australian advocate and author, who was diagnosed with dementia 10 years ago at 46, will weigh in with her perspective. Capping off the session, Dale Goldhawk, well known Canadian journalist and Conference Chair, will moderate a debate and open the floor for questions.

Emerging Approaches in Psychosocial Research to make life better for people with dementia will be the focus of Sunday's second plenary session.

Among the presenters is Dr. Mary Lou Kelley, a Canadian researcher at Lakehead University. She is involved with studies that look at improving the quality of life for people dying in long-term care homes, where almost half the residents have Alzheimer's disease or other dementia.

"There is a dire need to create a culture of hospice palliative care in long-term care homes,'' says Dr. Kelley. "Very few long-term care homes have a formalized palliative care program and there are many barriers to implementing these programs."

Dr. Amit Dias, a highly respected geriatrician from Goa Medical College, will share the results of his award-winning community project in India, where nearly 3.7 million people are living with dementia. Cases of abuse or neglect are common because of a lack of understanding of the disease and limited resources. Dr. Dias' project uses non-professional human resources that already exist in the community to train family caregivers about the disease and how to best cope and interact with loved ones who may be exhibiting difficult behaviors.

"This kind of approach might be the answer to the growing problem of dementia in India,'' says Dr. Dias. "It's not expensive and is based on needs and can be conducted with locally available resources. Above all, it has proven to be effective in lowering caregiver strain and to an extent, improving the quality of life of the person with dementia."

For more information, please visit and follow the conference on Facebook and Twitter.

Alzheimer's Disease International (ADI) is the international federation of over 70 Alzheimer associations. It was founded in 1984 as a network for Alzheimer associations around the world to share and exchange information, resources and skills. ADI is based in London and is registered as a non-profit organization in the USA. ADI has been in official relations with the World Health Organization since 1996. Each member is the national Alzheimer association in their country who support people with dementia and their families. ADI's mission is to improve the quality of life of people with dementia and their families throughout the world. Visit

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