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Report declares dementia a global public health crisis

April 11, 2012
by Patricia Sheehan
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A new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) and Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) calls for nations to make dementia an international public health priority, declaring dementia a public health crisis.

The report provides an overview of the impact of dementia worldwide. In addition to featuring best practices and practical case studies from around the world, it contains data—including statistics from low- and middle-income countries.

"WHO recognizes the size and complexity of the dementia challenge and urges countries to view dementia as a critical public health priority," said Dr. Shekhar Saxena, director, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, WHO, in a news release. "Right now, only eight of 194 WHO member states have a national dementia plan in place, and a few more are in development. Our hope is that other countries will follow suit, using this report as a starting point for planning and implementation."

According to ADI research, the number of people living with dementia worldwide, estimated at 35.6 million in 2010, is set to nearly double every 20 years, reaching 65.7 million in 2030 and 115.4 million in 2050.

Drawing parallels between dementia today and HIV/AIDS in the 1980s, Dr. Peter Piot, former UNAIDS executive director, argued in a recent speech that the world must tackle dementia with a similar level of urgency and concerted resources. "If the world needed a wake-up call, it is on this global crisis. I do not see any alternative than to treat Alzheimer's with at least the attention we gave HIV/AIDs," said Piot.

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