World Dementia Council rallies global action in the fight against dementia

Dr. Yves Joanette chairs a meeting of the World Dementia Council in Paris, France, in February 2017

Canada is at the forefront of the global fight against dementia, and leading the charge is Dr. Yves Joanette, Scientific Director of CIHR's Institute of Aging and leader of the CIHR Dementia Research Strategy.

As Chair of the World Dementia Council, Dr. Joanette is playing a leadership role in coordinating global efforts to find tangible solutions to the challenge of dementia.

The magnitude of the challenge is staggering.

Nearly 600,000 Canadians are currently living with dementia and this number will double over the next 20 years. That's because age is the main risk factor and the Canadian population is aging. It's important to note that each time one person is diagnosed with dementia at least one or two others are affected as caregivers.

Adding to the human impact is the economic cost. In 2016, the total cost of caring for Canadians living with dementia was $10.4 billion.

In the rest of the world, the situation is also dramatic. Among developing countries, in particular, the number of people living with dementia will more than triple by 2050. The global economic impact of dementia will reach 1 trillion dollars by next year, and 2 trillion dollars by 2030.

As Dr. Joanette says dementia is much too big a problem for anyone to tackle alone. We all have to play our part in pursuing a truly global solution.

The World Dementia Council is rallying governments, NGOs, industry, funding agencies, and all stakeholders towards to a solution. People living with dementia are also part of the Council as they represent the first and ultimate goal of this global effort.

Former UK Prime Minister David Cameron created the World Dementia Council as one of the commitments stemming from the G8 (now G7) Dementia Summit in December 2013. Dr. Joanette was appointed Chair in February 2016, following the founding Chair, Dr. Dennis Gillings.

With 24 members from six continents, the Council brings together leading experts from across the global dementia community, including researchers, academics, non-governmental organizations, pharma and IT companies, regulators, public sector organizations, and people living with dementia.

In August 2016, the Council agreed on a global action plan for dementia. The plan focuses work in five areas:

  • fostering a culture of open science and research
  • increasing the delivery of innovative medicines
  • advancing global levels of public and private finance for drug development
  • ensuring quality of life and the delivery of quality care to people living dementia and supports for caregivers
  • reducing the risk of dementia through lifestyle and other approaches

The Council also has a number of cross-cutting priorities, including the specific challenge of women and dementia – 2 out of 3 people living with dementia are women – and awareness of dementia, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.  
The World Dementia Council has contributed to a global effort involving WHO member states, including Canada. Indeed, Canada and other countries represented on the WHO's Executive Board endorsed a global action plan on the public health response to dementia. All WHO member states will be invited to adopt the plan at the World Health Assembly meeting in May 2017.

Meanwhile CIHR continues to make a contribution to the global effort through its Dementia Research Strategy, which includes the national flagship initiative the Canadian Consortium for Neurodegeneration in Aging and several strategic international partnerships. 

Read a Q&A article with Dr. Joanette on the global dementia challenge published in The National Post for National Brain Awareness Week.

Dr. Joanette with members of the World Dementia Council

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