International Position Paper on Dementia Chaired by Scientific Director of the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging

“Our Call for Action is one which aims at developing an evidence-based and a public health orientated approach to the looming problem of dementia,” explains Howard Chertkow, Chair of the InterAcademy Partnership (IAP) for Health working group.

The InterAcademy Partnership (IAP) includes more than 130 national and regional member academies. Together, members seek solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges, including meeting the needs of the growing number of people living with dementia.

Recently, the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS) approached the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging (CCNA) to draft a consensus Statement on dementia that will be used to support policy and decision-makers worldwide. Taking a synergistic approach, the CCNA’s Research Executive Committee harnessed their expertise in science and medicine to develop a paper which became the basis of discussion of an international working group whose members were selected by Academies of Medicine around the world, Chaired by the CCNA’s Scientific Director, Howard Chertkow.  The CCNA paper was modified to become an international document adopted by Academies of Medicine and Science around the world.

This IAP Statement has been endorsed by more than 50 members of IAP for Health.

The IAP for Health’s co-chair, Detlev Ganten of the German National Academy of Sciences, Leopoldina, explained: “Like all IAP Statements, this Statement on dementia has been thoroughly reviewed. It presents – based on the latest evidence from our member academies – the best impartial advice to policy-makers in national ministries of health and social welfare, to healthcare agencies and other relevant institutions, and to decision-makers at the international level. The burden of dementia is growing, especially in countries with an ageing society, and it is time to take action.”

In the Statement, it is clear that – worldwide – the proportion of the population aged 65 and older are growing in number. Because advancing age is the greatest risk factor for dementia, it is projected that the number of people living with dementia worldwide will nearly triple by 2050, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. Dementia also impacts men and women in different ways. Women are at a greater risk of developing dementia, of living longer with dementia, and they also provide most of the informal (unpaid) care for people living with dementia. Responding to this on a national level, the CCNA has a Women, Gender, Sex, and Dementia cross-cutting program that sees the CCNA’s 20 research teams applying this lens to their projects.

Essentially, the IAP Statement calls on governments and healthcare providers to:

  • Educate the public about dementia, brain health, and take action to remove the stigma associated with the illness;
  • Support research that will help delay, treat, prevent, and (ideally) cure the common causes of dementia; and
  • Invest in national healthcare systems, including providing training and capacity building for integrated healthcare teams and building the necessary infrastructure to ensure timely, competent, person-centered care for those living with dementia and their care partners throughout the illness.

Here at home, the CCNA, in working alongside the Alzheimer Society of Canada and other key stakeholders on the national dementia strategy, is helping design and implement the research component. This involves careful and critical conversations, especially benefitting from the establishment of a fifteen-person Advisory Council appointed by the Minister of Health, Ginette Petitpas-Taylor. At her behest, the Advisory Council has already met twice to consider how to move forward on developing and implementing the national dementia strategy – particularly on how to ensure that the argument is as strong as the political will now appears to be. Howard Chertkow and CCNA Associate Director, Kenneth Rockwood are also a member of the Advisory Committee. How they will help fashion the plan to move dementia policies forward will be an important test of how the CCNA can help Canadians in this critical societal and health challenge.

Read the open access academic article from the Journal of Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Read the IAP’s Statement Release on: “A Call for Action to Tackle the Growing Burden of Dementia,” and the IAP Statement here.