Today the World Health Organisation (WHO) Executive Board unanimously approved a decision to recommend adoption of a global action plan on dementia at the 70th World Health Assembly in May.
Amid statements of overwhelming support from Member States at the WHO Executive Board meeting in Geneva, countries endorsed the draft plan which outlines action needed to address dementia as an urgent global health priority.
At least 47.5 million people live with dementia worldwide and this number is growing by 9.9 million each year – the equivalent of a new case every 3 seconds. With global numbers of people living with dementia predicted to rise to 131.5 million by 2050, the human and financial cost is a global challenge requiring global solutions.
Many Member States in attendance referenced dementia as a national priority and recognised the global plan as an invaluable framework for countries to develop national strategies. Turkey urged Member States not to wait until 2025 (the end date of the plan) to produce national dementia strategies. The joint EU statement called for a human rights approach to tackling to dementia and other states aligned with this view. The UK, which has spearheaded global action on dementia, reaffirmed its commitment to the global challenge.
The plan identifies age as the strongest known risk factor for the onset of dementia, but recognises that dementia is not an inevitable consequence of ageing. China and India, home to two of the world’s largest populations, both of which are ageing rapidly, underlined the need for a tailored approach in lower and middle income countries. An estimated 58% of people with dementia live in low or middle income countries. China highlighted the impact of dementia on social and economic development and India stated a ‘dire need for global effort’ to address the global challenge.
The draft Global Action Plan on the Public Health Response to Dementia 2017–2025 recommends global targets and activity under seven areas for action: dementia awareness, risk reduction, diagnosis, care and treatment, support for care partners and research. The draft follows a WHO consultation, taking in views of Member States, civil society, people with dementia and other stakeholders. GADAA and its members participated in this process.
GADAA Executive Lead Amy Little attended the Executive Board meeting as part of the Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) delegation. Commenting on the momentous decision, ADI Executive Director Marc Wortman said, “This is an historical moment – it means there is commitment from Member States for a WHO plan on dementia which includes action for all countries to take. It is very encouraging that there is strong support from all WHO regions for this plan. Countries that are more advanced should now develop national dementia plans as soon as possible, and countries not there yet should start raising awareness – ADI is happy to support that.”
Civil society collaboration will be needed to partner in the implementation of the plan, working alongside Member States, WHO, UN agencies and other actors. We must now work collectively to ensure adoption of the plan during the 70th World Health Assembly in May, and for effective implementation to address dementia as an urgent global health priority. A cross-sector response is essential and GADAA‘s membership of international development organisations, health-focused NGOs, disability rights champions, human rights organisations, older people’s groups, faith based groups, women’s organisations and beyond will all have a role to play.
The Global Plan puts an emphasis on urgent action and Switzerland’s representative Tania Dussey-Cavassini made a rallying call to Members States, “One single word: ACT!”