Devora Kestel is director of mental health and substance use, WHO

Dear colleagues and friends. Good morning. Good afternoon. Good evening. My name is Devora Kestel, I'm the Director of the department of mental health and substance use at the World Health Organisation (WHO). The Covid-19 pandemic continues to challenge every aspect of our life. Once again, what was planned to as an in-person summit has turned into another virtual meeting. Thank you and congratulations to everyone at the World Dementia Council for your flexibility and dedication to make this happen at such short notice. The pandemic has also brutally brought to light the existing gaps and weaknesses of health and social care systems for dementia.

It has amplified inequalities regarding access to dementia diagnosis, treatment and care, and left people with dementia, especially those living in long-term care facilities, at increased risk of severe outcomes, deterioration in their symptoms and mortality. In this pandemic we are failing to support people with dementia and their families, as our recently launched Global Dementia Status Report showed. Despite having over 55 million people living with dementia today and estimated increases in dementia prevalence and associated social and economic impact worldwide, dementia is still not seen as a priority by much of the world.

With the challenge of this size, it is essential to include research and innovation as integral part of the dementia response, with strategies to better understand, prevent, and treat the underlying diseases and provide care and support for people with dementia and their carers.

To this end, WHO is developing the Dementia Research Blueprint, a global research coordination mechanism to identify critical knowledge gaps, facilitate timely, high quality evidence generation, and guide actions for implementation of research that also includes mobilising adequate resources and accelerating innovation in the field. The Blueprint will be the first step in establishing a global dialogue of public health agencies, scientists, funders, and people with lived experience to jointly delineate and provide guidance on future activities in mental health research. Let's renew the commitments made during the 2013 UK Dementia Summit and galvanise global action.

Addressing dementia cannot wait any longer. We must work together as a community, coordinating research efforts and leveraging the tools and knowledge at our disposal. It is time to join forces, improve the capacity of health systems to prevent and treat dementia, share quality data, reach beyond our traditional ways of conducting research, and address dementia as a global community. This is essential now and for the future in our ageing world.


Devora Kestel is director of mental health and substance use, WHO