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Dementia now seventh leading cause of death, says WHO

Lara Adejoro, Abuja

The World Health Organisation on Tuesday said dementia is now the seventh leading cause of death globally.

The WHO, however, said dementia research accounts for less than 1.5 per cent of total health research output.

Dementia is a syndrome in which there is deterioration in cognitive function beyond what might be expected from the usual consequences of biological ageing.

According to WHO, there are currently more than 55 million people who live with dementia worldwide, and there are nearly 10 million new cases every year.

In a press statement made available to our correspondent, WHO said strategies are needed to better understand, prevent, and treat the underlying diseases that cause dementia and, at the same time, provide care and support for people with dementia and their carers.

“Although dementia is the 7th leading cause of death globally, dementia research accounts for less than 1.5% of total health research output,” said WHO’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan.

“Sadly, we are falling behind implementing the Global action plan on the public health response to dementia 2017-25. Addressing dementia comprehensively requires research and innovation to be an integral part of the response.”

Adding, the WHO said “Moreover, dementia research needs to be conducted within an enabling environment, where collaborations are fostered, and equitable and sustained investment is realized.  

“With these objectives, WHO developed a blueprint for dementia research, the first WHO initiative of its kind for noncommunicable diseases. The blueprint is designed to provide guidance to policymakers, funders, and the research community on dementia research, making it more efficient, equitable, and impactful.”

On his part, the WHO’s Assistant Director-General UHC/Communicable & Noncommunicable Diseases, Dr. Ren Minghui said “We can achieve progress in dementia research by strengthening and monitoring the drivers of research highlighted in the Blueprint so that they become the norm for good research practice.” 

WHO encourages national and international research agencies, together with other funding bodies, to use this blueprint to inform upcoming funding streams and operationalize the drivers of research. 

“Civil society can ensure that advocacy efforts are likewise aligned, supporting the drive for a more equitable, efficient, and collaborative research landscape. Additionally, researchers can support the achievement of milestones and strategic goals of this blueprint by addressing the research gaps identified.

“WHO will work with all stakeholders across relevant sectors to ensure that the actions outlined in the blueprint are implemented, milestones are achieved, and strategic goals are realized, with the ultimate aim of improving the quality of life of and support offered to people living with dementia, their carers, and families,” it said.

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