A report launched today by the leading Think Tank, International Longevity Centre – UK (ILC-UK) reveals that the dementia research agenda in most EU countries remains critically under-funded and under-valued.

The report, ‘The European Dementia Research Agenda’ finds there is widespread disparity in the diagnosis, treatment and care of people with dementia across Europe.
It argues that research needs to be afforded a greater role in tackling Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. The report suggests investment in clinical research and translational research will reap its own rewards and holds the key to improved prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

While some countries are striving forward such as Germany and France, the report found, many EU countries are trailing behind with no specifically targeted dementia research funding and/or national strategies.

With over seven million people in the EU living with dementia and with the numbers forecast to double in the next twenty years, the escalating economic, health, and social care costs necessitate fundamental changes to policy interventions for Member States and EU Institutions.

Baroness Sally Greengross, the Chief Executive of the ILC-UK said:

“The evidence shows health and social care systems across Europe will face collapse if we do not prioritise public spending on dementia now. Research needs to be at the heart of any future government initiatives.
We know the prejudice and stigma attached to dementia has not served it well in terms of the ‘public sell’. This has to change and all governments have to lead by example. In particular we need more investment in research to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment.”

The report made possible through an unrestricted grant from Pfizer, summarises the presentations, discussions and ideas which emerged from an expert working group meeting on dementia research held in the European Parliament in November 2010. It also brings together recent research on the scale, cost, national and EU responses to dementia and recent EU initiatives.

Today ILC-UK issued a Call to Action for the European Commission, the European Parliament, EU governments, and wider civil society.

Among the 13 recommendations are:

For the European Commission to:

  • Organise an annual conference on dementia research
  • Prioritise dementia research under Framework Programme 8, given the growing burden and financial, health, social and human cost of dementia across Europe
  • Develop a European Charter to increase the participation of people with dementia in clinical trials, share best practice and examine current obstacles

For the Members of the European Parliament to:

  • Support the drafting and adoption of a United Nations Convention on the Human Rights of Older People

For Governments of the Member States to:

  • Ensure parity in funding for dementia research in line with other chronic diseases and the disease burden
  • Ensure the implementation and adequate resourcing of comprehensive national strategies to address all aspects of dementia.
  • Increase the number of health care professionals trained in dementia
  • Create national centres of excellence in dementia research.

For NGOs, clinicians, industry and academia to:

  • Work with professional bodies that represent, regulate and are responsible for the training of GPs and other health care professionals to encourage more Continuing Professional Development in dementia and the exchange of best practice.

The author of the report Sally-Marie Bamford, ILC-UK Senior Researcher added:

“It is clear from listening to the delegates at the meeting that we have more in common with our European neighbours than we may think. Across the shores, politicians and policy-makers are all grappling with the thorny of problem of dementia.

While there are certainly some frontrunners in the dementia policy race, all countries need to recognise that investing in dementia research is essential. Officials in charge of the public purse need to stop thinking ‘Can we afford to do this?’, but rather ‘Can we afford not to!’.”


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