Jeremy Hunt, UK Secretary of State for Health and Social Care discusses what the UK is doing in the fight against dementia, and the importance of global partnerships.
16 March 2017
“Whether it’s Elon Musk on space exploration or Bill Gates’s efforts to eradicate malaria, this is an era in which big issues are being met with even bigger ambitions. Yet there is little that can compare with the challenge that soaring rates of dementia will create over the coming decades.
Every three seconds another person around the world develops this debilitating condition – now one of the leading causes of death and disability internationally, with an economic cost of more than $1 trillion.
That is why, four years ago, the UK hosted a global summit which brought together the major economic powers to establish its own simple yet powerful mission: could we together marshal our resources and expertise in order to create a world without dementia?
Since then, a unique partnership has developed between Governments, academics, scientists and the pharmaceutical and life sciences industry, leading to the first ever global action plan on dementia.
In the UK, our efforts to improve the support for people with the disease has seen us make considerable progress on diagnosis rates, moving from one of the countries with the worst diagnosis rates in Europe to one of the best.
There has also been a significant shift in public attitudes to the disease, with over two million Dementia Friends and over 300 Dementia Friendly communities in the UK helping to break down stigma and support those with the disease to live well within their communities.
And the establishment of the UK Dementia Research Institute is providing a new focal point for research across care, prevention and technology, which should help to ensure that the UK’s rich pedigree in medical research is directed towards discovering new approaches to dementia. We are looking to reform our social care system to ensure it is sustainable and is able to support the growing numbers of people with dementia in the future.
What we’ve also learnt is that we cannot achieve our ambitions for dementia alone. Our partnership with Japan, which shares so many similar challenges associated with an ageing population, has demonstrated that we are far stronger when we collaborate beyond our borders.
Together, we have supported the ongoing focus on dementia throughout Japan’s presidency of the G7, with learning exchanges between both nations, a successful global symposium on building a dementia-friendly world, and the appointment of Global Dementia Friends Ambassadors, Carey Mulligan and Yuichiro Miura.
And we continue to share an ambition to help other countries around the world to become dementia friendly. We are learning from our respective programmes to identify ways in which we can support more communities, including in low and middle income countries, to introduce similar initiatives.
These partnerships also extend beyond Governments into civil society by encouraging and embracing the important role that voluntary organisations can play in creating a more supportive environment for people with dementia – from the excellent work being done in the UK by Alzheimer’s Society, Alzheimer’s Research UK and others, to the efforts being made by members of the Global Alzheimer’s and Dementia Action Alliance to deliver change on a global scale.
That is why this week’s Japan-UK Dementia Conference is so important, as an opportunity to bring together a wide-ranging coalition to learn lessons, establish new connections and renew our shared ambitions for dementia.
I still believe a cure is within our grasp – now is the time to work across borders to achieve it.”
Global Alzheimer’s and Dementia Action Alliance (GADAA) Chair Jeremy Hughes attended the Japan-UK Dementia Conference and satellite meetings in Japan this week, coordinated as part of the UK:Japan partnership on dementia.
GADAA is a network of iNGOs hosted by Alzheimer’s Society in collaboration with Alzheimer’s Disease International and others. The GADAA network was launched by Jeremy Hunt during the 2014 World Health Assembly to meet the recommendation of the G8 Dementia Declaration to “mainstream dementia” by involving a much wider coalition of civil society actors. International civil society organisations have a major role to play in global action on dementia and can join the Global Alzheimer’s & Dementia Action Alliance to work with other iNGOs on this urgent cause.