Implementing the Australian Government's dementia research boost

26 June, 2014

Sixty of Australia’s leading dementia experts and advocates have made a commitment to ensure that the Government’s $200 million dementia research boost will make a lasting difference in the prevention, treatment and management of dementia for all Australians.

In a recent meeting hosted by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), ideas were presented by research leaders, community advocates and Federal and State Government representatives on how Australia could best direct its research efforts in dementia.

NHMRC CEO Professor Warwick Anderson said the meeting was essential to ensure that the funding would have as much benefit as possible for people with dementia, their carers and families.

"We need to ensure this funding builds on our strengths in dementia research and that we offer a meaningful contribution to other research already underway, both in Australia and around the world,” Professor Anderson said.

“What we do with this investment should break new ground for patient care and leave a legacy for future dementia research.”

Key directions from the forum included:

  • The need for strong involvement from people with dementia, their carers and families in all aspects of research, translation and care; and the need to address the stigma of dementia.
  • The importance of cross-disciplinary collaboration to develop and address the key questions for dementia research, including other areas not traditionally involved in medical research such as engineering and physics.
  • Acknowledgement of other major international efforts to combat dementia, and the need for Australians to be involved in these to ensure patients benefit from all cutting-edge research.
  • The need to involve clinicians, including allied health practitioners, to translate research findings into practice and policy.

Federal Health Minister Peter Dutton acknowledged the forum’s discussions and reiterated the importance of finding new treatments and better ways of preventing dementia.

“Finding ways to prevent dementia, as well as developing new treatments and models of care for those already suffering dementia is no easy task, but one that I am certain our research community is up to,” Mr Dutton said.

Alzheimer’s Australia CEO Glenn Rees attended the meeting and said that it was critical to do more to get dementia research into practice. Mr Rees welcomed NHMRC’s willingness to work with Alzheimer’s Australia and its Consumer Dementia Research Network to set priority-driven research areas over the next five years that will have the most impact in the field.

“I hope researchers and the NHMRC regard Alzheimer’s Australia and the consumers we represent as agents of change. We have skills in advocacy, policy, communication and networking which have delivered significant results, not just in terms of research in recent times but in the 2005 Dementia Initiative and more recently in the tackling dementia element of the 2012 Aged Care Reforms,” Mr Rees said.

Mr Rees said that these positive initial discussions have set the stage for progress but acknowledged that there is still much work to be done on key elements of the new National Dementia Institute including its governance, appointment of a director, the approach to setting research priorities and how to put in place the networks necessary to get research into practice.

Mr Rees looks forward to continuing conversations with Professor Anderson and the NHMRC and also with the ARC in coming months.

“I hope that in discussing how we prioritise the $200 million we can keep the end game in mind- better care and support for people with dementia. In my view this will only be achieved if a true and sustainable partnership with consumers is developed,” he said.