Global governments and multi-governmental organizations are increasingly alarmed by the predictable public health, fiscal and economic impacts of aging populations and, in particular, Alzheimer’s disease. In April 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO) identified dementia as a “public health priority.” In her forward to the report, WHO Director Dr. Margaret Chan clearly articulated the global impact of dementia today and tomorrow:
“Current estimates indicate 35.6 million people worldwide are living with dementia. This number will double by 2030 and more than triple by 2050. Dementia doesn’t just affect individuals. It also affects and changes the lives of family members. Dementia is a costly condition in its social, economic, and health dimensions. Nearly 60 percent of the burden of dementia is concentrated in low- and middle-income countries and this is likely to increase in coming years. The need for long-term care for people with dementia strains health and social systems, and budgets. The catastrophic cost of care drives millions of households below the poverty line. The overwhelming number of people whose lives are altered by dementia, combined with the staggering economic burden on families and nations, makes dementia a public health priority.”
Governments, driven by both the public health and fiscal impacts of Alzheimer’s, have committed additional funding and programs to deal with Alzheimer’s. A dozen countries, including the United States, France, Great Britain, Australia and Korea, have adopted national plans or strategies to address the impact of Alzheimer’s, and other sub-national and non-governmental blueprints have been adopted. In its first-ever National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s disease, the United States set a bold goal to prevent and effectively treat the disease by 2025.
This unparalleled expression of public resolve to address Alzheimer’s and its costs to global healthcare systems has been accompanied by an explicit invitation from many national and international public bodies to the private sector to join in shared public-private initiatives to change the trajectory of Alzheimer’s. In doing so, the private sector has a real opportunity to effect disruptive change to existing ‘business-as-usual’ approaches to research, drug development, evaluation and care delivery.
Alzheimer's and dementia is a global crisis that requires a global solution. About 36 million people worldwide are suffering from dementia today, a number that will spike to 115 million by the mid-century point. According to Alzheimer's Disease International, current global costs of caring for the current number of victims exceeds $600 billion annually. This spending is simply unsustainable, making Alzheimer's a grave threat to the world's health and finances if not stopped.
When the world has faced catastrophic challenges before, nations have marshaled significant resources behind clear goals and objectives to achieve great things. A decade ago, the world committed to an ambitious, aggressive and well-funded effort to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and malaria. Ten years later, that effort has paid significant dividends in terms of lives saved and economic development fostered. Similar commitments both domestic and international have enabled the world to make tremendous strides in addressing other diseases and conditions such as cancers and heart disease. The time has now come to embrace a similar global effort to stop Alzheimer's and dementia, a disease that Professor Peter Piot, head of the United Nation's global AIDS effort, has compared in scope to the AIDS crisis.
The following are links to governmental and non-governmental reports on the Alzheimer's crisis.