Dementia research and national strategy critical, international expert says

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Media Release

Tuesday 14 March 2017

President and CEO of the American Alzheimer’s Association Harry Johns has highlighted the critical need for more investment in dementia research and joined calls for a fully-funded National Dementia Strategy in Australia ahead of a lecture tour to coincide with National Brain Awareness Week.

Mr Johns, whose national tour starts in Melbourne today, said more dementia research is an urgent international priority.

Mr Johns said with the support of their government the investment in dementia research, including a $350 million increase in the past year, has enabled significant investments that have changed the trajectory of dementia research.

He has also joined calls for a fully-funded National Dementia Strategy, saying the experience of implementing such a strategy in the United States demonstrates the significant potential – both economically and socially.

“The value of a national approach in addressing dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease not only has the potential to create the same success that has been demonstrated in the fights against other diseases, such as influenza and pneumonia, it also provides for a much more co-ordinated approach in meeting the many challenges dementia presents to the community,” Mr Johns said.

“There is an urgent need to focus on increasing and sustaining funding for research internationally and to ensure that we are supporting people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias and their families.”

Under Mr Johns’ leadership the Alzheimer’s Association has driven the public agenda on Alzheimer's disease in America, raising awareness of the condition to unprecedented levels, which has delivered significant public policy advances in the US, including the passage of the National Alzheimer's Project Act (NAPA) and the creation of the National Alzheimer's Plan in 2012. Collaborations led by the organisation and research funded directly by the Association, both internationally and locally, have advanced new levels of understanding in the field.

Alzheimer’s Australia National CEO, Maree McCabe, said there are currently more than 413,000 Australians living with dementia, and 2441 people joining the population with dementia each day, urgent action on dementia is critical.

“The recently released Economic Cost of Dementia in Australia 2016-2056 report revealed dementia is currently costing the Australian economy $14.6 billion per annum yet we still do not have a fully-funded national strategy to provide better care and outcomes for people who are living with dementia now, nor are we taking risk reduction seriously in order to try to reduce the numbers of people living with dementia in the future,” Ms McCabe said.

“The time for action is now. If we don’t act now, the cost is going to continue to grow to unsustainable levels.”

Alzheimer’s Australia has, for some time, been calling for a coordinated National Dementia Strategy with measurable outcomes based on the National Framework for Action on Dementia 2015-2019. The Framework identifies key areas for action but without funding and long-term commitment little progress will be made in developing better supports for people with dementia. A National Dementia Strategy would focus on:

  • Increasing awareness to reduce stigma and social isolation associated with dementia
  • Risk reduction strategies which look to partner with other health promotion campaigns sharing common risk factors
  • Timely diagnosis, to connect people with dementia to the support and services they need sooner
  • A coordinated approach to post-diagnosis care and support Initiatives to improve the quality of care for people with dementia
  • End-of-life care to support the choices of people with end-stage dementia
  • Investment in dementia research and support for consumer involvement in dementia research

Phil Hazell who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in early 2015, said it would be great to see dementia research given the same priority and funding levels as other chronic health conditions.

“There is so much still unknown about dementia, that research is vital to help us better understand and manage the disease,” Mr Hazell said.

“In the meantime, while we are waiting for a medical breakthrough, it is absolutely crucial that we continue to ensure there are adequate services available for people living with dementia to better live with the disease, and, indeed, to live well with dementia.”

Mr Johns who is also a member of the World Dementia Council which unites leading experts from across the global dementia community to find solutions to the devastating condition, is currently conducting a national speaking tour visiting Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra presenting on the global challenge of dementia and the urgent need to make dementia research an international priority. Mr Johns will be joined in Sydney and Canberra by Scientia Professor Henry Brodaty AO one of the world’s leading dementia researchers.

“There is hope through research and we will be using this tour to share that knowledge,” Professor Brodaty said.

“I am delighted to be able to provide an update to communities around Australia on the latest developments in dementia research and what people can do to limit their risk. We will cover the latest research on how to maintain a quality of life for people with dementia and their families.”

NHMRC National Institute for Dementia Research (NNIDR) Director Janice Besch said it was fantastic to have such experts in the dementia field to share their knowledge directly with policy makers and consumers.

“If we are to lessen the serious impact dementia is having on the lives of everyday Australians, we must continue to invest in research,” Ms Besch said. “We are making head-way and breaking new grounds all the time, but there is so much to learn about this complex condition and events like these give us a real opportunity to share that knowledge.”

Mr Johns’ visit to Australia is supported by the J.O and J.R Wicking Trust and Professor Brodaty’s tour is supported by the NNIDR.

Professor Brodaty will continue to speak in Melbourne, Hobart, Perth and Adelaide. Find out more or register.

The J.O and J.R Wicking Trust is managed by Equity Trustees and is now one of Australia’s most significant charitable trusts distributing around $4.5 million annually. The Wicking Trust directs its major grants to achieve systemic change in the areas of ageing and Alzheimer's disease.

The national public lecture tour is also part of Brain Awareness Week which, held from March 13-19 is the global campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research including the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disorders of the brain.

The NNIDR is the Australian Government’s Boosting Dementia Research initiative, the Institute has been established to target, co-ordinate and translate the strategic expansion of dementia research in Australia.

1 The National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling NATSEM (2016) Economic Cost of Dementia in Australia 2016-2056

Media enquiries:

Bianca Armytage
0407 019 430 / 02 6278 8924
[email protected]

Sarah Price
0403 072 140
[email protected]

Christine Bolt
0400 004 553
[email protected]

Alzheimer’s Australia is the charity for people with dementia and their families and carers. As the peak body, it provides advocacy, support services, education and information. An estimated 413,000 people have dementia in Australia. This number is projected to reach more than 1.1 million in 40 years. 

National Dementia Helpline: 1800 100 500
An interpreter service is available
(The National Dementia Helpline is an Australian Government Initiative)
Dementia is a National Health Priority Area

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