Alzheimer’s Disease International calls for extension to global action plan on public health response to dementia

Multidisciplinary team of experts from NIMHANS and Dementia India Alliance are actively collaborating with Karnataka’s Health Department for drafting a State action plan

Published - May 31, 2024 06:45 am IST - Bengaluru

According to the World Health Organisation, 55 million are estimated to be living with dementia worldwide. 

According to the World Health Organisation, 55 million are estimated to be living with dementia worldwide.  | Photo Credit: Getty Images

A new report titled  “From Plan to Impact”, released on May 29 at the World Health Assembly, has revealed that less than a fifth of all 194 World Health Organisation (WHO) member states, including India, have followed through on their promise to develop a National Dementia Plan by 2025.

Following this, Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) has called for a 10-year extension to WHO’s global action plan on the public health response to dementia which launched in 2017. Dementia is an umbrella term for several diseases affecting memory, other cognitive abilities and behaviour that interfere significantly with a person’s ability to maintain their activities of daily living. 

Grouped health plan

“Currently, in India, dementia is referred to in an existing grouped health plan, but not as a separate health condition and any such plan has not yet been launched. However, India has committed funding for some of the seven action areas outlined in the WHO global action plan on dementia,” the report stated. 

According to the World Health Organisation, in 2015, before the global action plan was launched, 47 million people were estimated to be living with dementia worldwide. Currently, this figure exceeds 55 million and is forecast to increase to 78 million by 2030 and 139 million by 2050, the report pointed out.

Renu Vohra, Chairperson of the Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India (ARDSI), said India lacks an exclusive policy for dementia support. National dementia plans are crucial to ensure health systems can provide access to new diagnostics, treatments, and vital care and support, she said.

“While other BRICS countries such as Brazil, Russia and China already have dementia action plans in place, India’s dementia plan is still pending. We submitted a draft action plan to the Union Health Ministry in 2018. ARDSI is planning to submit another representation in this regard to the new government soon after its formation,” she said.

Gaining priority in Karnataka

P.T. Sivakumar, professor and Head of the Geriatric Psychiatry Unit at NIMHANS, said a multidisciplinary team of experts from NIMHANS and Dementia India Alliance, headed by Radha S Murthy, is actively collaborating with the Karnataka Health Department to draft a State action plan.

“While dementia is gaining priority, there are several disorders that also require attention. At the State level, NIMHANS and DIA have advocated for an action plan and the Health Minister Dinesh Gundu Rao has declared dementia as a public health priority,” he said.

Prevalence in India

Recent estimates reveal a dementia prevalence rate of 7.4% among those aged 60 years and above in India. From an estimated 88 lakh in 2016, the prevalence of dementia is projected to increase to 1.69 crore by 2036 in the country. In  Karnataka, the prevalence of this neurodegenerative brain disease is estimated to be more than five lakh, the doctor said.

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