Tackling dementia - Multipronged collaboration can accelerate progress

Today’s guest blog comes from Laura Campo, Advisor - International Corporate Affairs, Alzheimer's disease at Eli Lilly and Company

Every 3 seconds, someone in the world develops dementia. In my home country Italy, if current prevalence rates are maintained, the number of those living with dementia is projected to increase from 1.4 million to 2.3 million by 2040. So far, despite many years of research and countless approaches, no treatments or interventions have been able to alter the course of the disease. But progress has been made on the public policy front – the new WHO global action plan alongside national government strategies to tackle Alzheimer’s disease across Europe have helped address the burden of the disease. Here we share key insights on best practice identified by the Economist Intelligence Unit looking at what strategies work and what barriers continue to exist.

Whatever way you look at the figures, the sense of urgency is there, but what’s needed to tackle Alzheimer’s in the years to come? What concrete, measurable actions can be implemented to benefit the increasing number of people living with Alzheimer’s?

From investments in research to increased awareness through national dementia plans, there are strategies that have worked and can be built upon. There’s no point reinventing the wheel, and countries can learn from one another. That’s why we tasked the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) to find out which strategies work best across France, Spain, Italy, Germany and the UK and what barriers are holding them back in the fight against Alzheimer’s.

From under-diagnosis to a lack of co-ordination between healthcare and social services, the report shows that countries still face a number of hurdles. Among the countries surveyed by the EIU, only two had in place national dementia plans (UK and Italy). The average annual cost per dementia patient differs greatly per country, with some bearing a greater proportion of indirect costs. In Italy, the majority of expenses (87%) are represented by social care costs, and informal caregivers.

The recently adopted WHO Global Action Plan on dementia acts as a guide to national governments to tackle Alzheimer’s disease, and for the first time, it includes specific targets that will help monitor progress against the disease. These comprise funding, or encouraging funding for research to find treatments that can slow the progression of the disease or prevent its occurrence, providing care for those already living with dementia, or create dementia-friendly communities.

There are high hopes that the adoption of the Global Action Plan will streamline efforts to slow down the burden of the disease. That means also learning from best practice, at all levels. The event organized by Alzheimer’s Europe in the European Parliament on 27 June on “Current and future treatment of Alzheimer’s dementia” takes that approach, sharing specific cases of best practice on current treatment and management options for Alzheimer’s, as well as exploring a new understanding of the disease, and looking at research on treatment and prevention.

Initiatives from global to regional, to national and local levels are all needed to fully address Alzheimer’s. That’s why it’s crucial that the Alzheimer’s health community continues to support member states in their implementation of the Global Action and the development of national action plans. After all, there are limits that can only be addressed by taking a multi-stakeholder approach.  The Global Action Plan certainly constitutes a great first step, and we need to spread the word to ensure full adoption by each government. However, much more needs to be done to move from a “plan” to having a practical impact. At Lilly, we will continue working together with the health community and by measuring the impact of our work, we will take many more steps forward to helping people with Alzheimer’s, their families and society as a whole, to address this huge challenge.

Pronged approach

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