Leaving no one behind because of their medical condition

Leaving no one behind because of their medical condition

3 December 2018

Today marks the International Day for Persons with Disabilities and also the launch of the UK Department for International Disabilities (DFID) Disability Strategy which sets out DFID’s strategy for disability inclusive development and captures the commitments made by DFID during the Global Disability Summit held in London earlier this year. Global Alzheimer’s & Dementia Action Alliance members have contributed to its development.

When it comes to development we should leave no one behind. Unfortunately too often people are left behind because they are simply dealt a card that gave them a medical condition: dementia.

Carey Mulligan, actor and UK’s Global Dementia Friends Ambassador, supports Alzheimer’s Society and the Global Alzheimer’s & Dementia Action Alliance in championing dementia as an inclusive development issue. She said;

“Dementia is a global health crisis and one of the leading causes of death. 50 million people live with dementia worldwide with 59% in lower and middle income countries, and someone develops dementia every three seconds.

“I have experienced first-hand how devastating dementia can be as my grandmother, Nans, lived with Alzheimer’s and passed away last year. People living with dementia all over the world desperately need access to a medical practitioner who can provide a diagnosis and they need help to plan necessary support. We need to look at dementia in the same way we look at other global health conditions. We screen for communicable diseases and treat child & maternal health – how do we also support ageing populations and diagnose and support those living with conditions like dementia?

“Together with Alzheimer’s Society, I welcome the commitment to putting disability inclusion at the heart of DFID’s agenda. People with dementia must be included as part of this work, to see real change on this global health priority to ensure no one is left behind because of their medical condition.”

Acquired and progressive disability

As few as one in 10 individuals receive a diagnosis for dementia in low and middle income countries, people are receiving sub-standard or no care, and the stigma surrounding the condition is high. In some countries symptoms are misinterpreted as a form of witchcraft. Older women affected by dementia are exposed to what has been termed a ‘triple jeopardy’ discriminated against as a result of their age, sex and condition.

The World Health Organisation recognises that dementia accounts for 11.9% of the years lived with disability due to a non-communicable disease. People living with disabilities are often excluded from development programmes as they can be the hardest to reach. The symptoms of dementia are acquired and progressive disabilities. Those with a so-called ‘hidden’ disability like dementia are even more likely to be left behind when those responding do not see their condition. Which is why we were pleased for the Global Alzheimer’s & Dementia Action Alliance to be part of DFID’s Global Disability Summit in July, recognising dementia in the inclusive development agenda.

Awareness is vital

For true inclusion, awareness is vital – communities must recognise that dementia is a medical condition. Dementia Friends is a programme that increases understanding of dementia, and now 44 countries (including 18 lower and middle income countries) are changing how people think, act and talk about the condition.

We also need to support health system strengthening to diagnosis and support dementia. We need to look at dementia in the same way we look at other global health conditions. Without action and as populations age, the world is woefully unprepared for the dementia crisis, and we risk leaving some of the most underserved and marginalised behind.

DFID Disability Strategy launch

Minister of State for International Development Harriett Baldwin launched DFID’s updated Disability Strategy at an event coordinated with Bond, attended by representatives from Disabled Peoples Organisations, leaders from civil society, the private sector and MPs. The Minister highlighted that the strategy enables DFID to step up efforts on mental health and psychosocial disabilities, a cross-cutting theme within the new strategy. Amy Little of the Global Alzheimer’s & Dementia Action Alliance and Howard Gordon of Dementia Alliance International attended the event, alongside other GADAA member organisations. GADAA worked with a small number of other BOND member organisations to coordinate a spotlight session on breaking down the barriers for women and girls with disabilities.