Retreating or defeating: the international community’s choice on dementia

International governmental organizations cannot retreat from the G7 dementia commitments made at the London summit. Progress has been made; national governments and international organizations have taken action. But international decision makers risk not realizing the 2025 ambitions unless the pace of progress is stepped up. This is a key message from the World Dementia Council meeting in Tokyo March 13-14.

Dementia is the biggest health challenge the international community faces. 50 million people today live with dementia. That number will explode over the next two decades; by 2050 more than 130 million will be living with dementia. It is not just a human tragedy but an economic one. Dementia costs the global economy today $1 trillion. Increasingly developed and developing countries are grappling with the spiralling cost of dementia as their population ages.

Recognizing dementia was a challenge for every nation in 2013 the G8 met in London under the UK presidency and made a series of commitments on quality of life, disease modifying therapies, research, data, stigma and the rights of people affected by dementia. As part of the summit the World Dementia Council was established to challenge the international community and to ensure the commitments made at the summit were delivered.

We recognize the significant progress that has been made in some of these areas and that beyond the G7 the challenge has been taken up by many international participants. This shows what is possible:

  • The establishment of a Drug Discovery Fund of over £200 million;
  • The adoption of the Global Action Plan on public health response to dementia;
  • The establishment of Global Dementia Observatory;
  • Increasing funding going into dementia research;
  • Building a global conversation on dementia.

But progress has been too slow. Dementia is already one of the top ten causes of death globally. By 2025 not only will millions die from dementia, but also millions of people will have lost too many years of quality of life because of inadequate care and support.

There are four key priorities in which accelerated action by the international community in the near future can have significant impact as globally we work towards the 2025 goals. 

  • Awareness: The commitments made after the London summit will not be realized without concerted international effort to raise awareness that results in more people living with dementia in the developed and developing world receiving a timely and accurate diagnosis.
  • Care: The London summit recognized that great innovation is needed to improve the quality of life for people with dementia and their carers and particularly the impact of dementia on women needed to be recognized (both as the majority of people living with dementia and the majority of care givers). The summit recognized the need to increase research and translate it into better care.
  • Risk reduction: A disease modifying treatment by 2025 remains a key commitment. We may reduce the risk of cognitive decline through a number of lifestyle interventions. Too many people aren’t aware of how to reduce their risks and science remains insufficient. As technology has improved, many people have smart phones and wearable devices but the power of technology is not yet being used to reduce risk and keep people well.
  • Research: the London summit recognized that key to making progress on research was to make the research data and results available for further research as quickly as possible and encourage collaborative research. It committed to report biennially on expenditure on publicly funded national dementia research and through mapping research and sharing initiatives on big data it would help realise the goal of a disease modifying treatment by 2025.

Since 2013 the World Dementia Council has supported and challenged the international community to make good on its 2025 commitments made at the London summit and at the G20 subsequently. 

Over the next nine months, in the run up to the five year anniversary of the London summit, the Council will work with participants from the summit, with policy experts, with civil society, with industry, and those directly affected to review the progress that has been made in the four global priorities for action. 

Harry Johns, Chair of the World Dementia Council said:

“Dementia is an enormous and growing global health challenge. While advances have been made internationally, and at a nation state level, to meet the challenge, progress has been too slow. The ambitious agenda set out at the London summit in 2013 is at risk. Over the next nine months the World Dementia Council will work with experts and industry, academia and governments to review what has been done and what more needs to be done. Now is the moment. We cannot fail this.”

Notes for Editors

About The World Dementia Council (WDC)

The World Dementia Council (WDC) is an international charity. It consists of 24 senior experts and leaders drawn from research, academia, industry and NGOs in both high income and low and middle income countries and includes people living with dementia. Alongside the full members of council there are a number of associate members, including from national governments, the World Health Organization and OECD.

WDC stimulates innovation and identifies and pursues priority opportunities for global collaboration against dementia. Its annual review sets out the activities of the Council.