GENEVA, Switzerland – Dementia is one of the greatest health challenges of our generation. “Although dementia is the 7th leading cause of death globally, dementia research accounts for less than 1.5 percent of total health research output,” said Dr Soumya Swaminathan, WHO’s chief scientist.
“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.”
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.
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 non-communicable 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.
Specifically, the blueprint for dementia research:
- Builds on and applies lessons learned from WHO efforts to prioritize research and coordinate research activities for infectious diseases;
- Considers the entire dementia research spectrum, incorporating diagnostics and therapeutics, as well as emerging scientific and technological advances such as artificial intelligence, multiomics, and biomarkers;
- Encompasses epidemiology, health economics, care and carer research, risk reduction, and brain health across the life course; and
- Provides insights on different drivers of research, such as sustainable funding, diversity and equity, and the involvement of people with lived experience of dementia throughout the research development process.
“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,” said Dr Ren Minghui, WHO’s assistant director-general UHC/Communicable & Noncommunicable Diseases.
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.