Dementia crisis looms as WHO global dementia plan falls short of target

Paola Barbarino, CEO, Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI)

People living with dementia and their caregivers are facing a bleak future as the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Dementia Plan falls short of its target, with only around 20 per cent of member states following through on their promises. This alarming situation has prompted Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) to call for an extension to the Global Action Plan on the public health response to dementia at the World Health Assembly in Geneva.

The ADI’s report, titled ‘From Plan to Impact VI,’ reveals that out of 194 WHO member states, only 39 have created a National Dementia Plan (NDP) as they had committed to doing by 2025. This lack of progress has left ADI deeply disappointed, as it believes that urgent action is needed to fulfil the promises made in 2017.

Paola Barbarino, the CEO of ADI, expressed her disappointment, stating, “Six years after the creation of the Global Action Plan, it’s now impossible to meet the targets set out in 2017 because progress has been too slow globally. Over 100 new plans would need to be created in two years to reach the target.” The Global Action Plan, adopted unanimously by all member states in 2017, aimed to improve the lives of individuals with dementia and their caregivers, while also addressing the broader impact of the disease on communities.

Even some G7 countries, including France and England, which were previously leading the way in NDP development, have regressed in their efforts. This lack of commitment and progress from governments is detrimental to those living with dementia worldwide.

In Australia, 2019 figures showed over 348,000 estimated cases of dementia. New estimates show that is expected to rise to over 796,000 by 2050, a concerning 128 percent increase.

ADI statement

The urgency for action is further highlighted by recent breakthroughs in drug research targeting amyloid, which show promise in slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. However, without adequately prepared healthcare systems to roll out these treatments, these breakthroughs could be rendered ineffective. Barbarino emphasized the importance of timely access to these treatments, stating, “Urgent planning is required to roll out these critical dementia therapies for people living with dementia.”

The need for action becomes even more pressing as the global population continues to age, resulting in an increasing number of dementia diagnoses. Currently, approximately 75 per cent of individuals living with dementia remain undiagnosed, and a staggering 85 per cent do not receive the necessary care.

The number of people living with dementia worldwide is projected to reach 139 million by 2050, according to the WHO. ADI emphasizes that countries cannot delay any longer and must prioritise their senior citizens’ well-being. Barbarino urged governments to take action, emphasizing that even small initiatives, such as enabling caregivers to remain employed for longer periods, can make a significant difference.


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