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New global dementia report highlights NZ's failings

A new report about the scale of the global dementia challenge means New Zealand needs to step up its response to this public health issue, says Alzheimers NZ.

Published in the Lancet Neurology, the report is from the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries and Risk Factors Study (GBD) 2016 Dementia Collaborators.

It presents estimates of dementia-related deaths, prevalence, quality of life, measures, and risk factors, with the aim of documenting global patterns and providing data for research, and to guide a wide range of public health investments.

It highlights two key findings: The number of people worldwide with dementia has doubled since 1990 from 20.2 million to nearly 44 million.

Secondly, the report says the data about the huge burden of dementia is not as reliable as data around other health conditions because ‘despite efforts to standardise dementia and Alzheimer’s disease assessments since the early 1980s, dementia is still assessed in many different ways.’

Alzheimers NZ chief executive, Catherine Hall, says the report presents alarming facts about the rising incidence of dementia worldwide and she says New Zealand is not exempt.

“The number of Kiwis expected to be diagnosed with dementia is expected to triple in the next 30 years.

“Our government needs to make this an urgent health priority right now to avoid the consequences.”

Alzheimers NZ has recommended a six-step pathway for addressing the significant dementia challenge New Zealand faces, and Ms Hall is urging the government to take immediate action.

One of those steps echoes feedback from the GBD report.

“The GBD report says that worldwide, we need better data about the huge health burden created by dementia.

“This applies particularly to New Zealand where our data collection around dementia is terrible,” Ms Hall said.

“There are currently no national indicators here against which dementia progress can be measured and monitored in the country. New Zealand needs better data collection, meaningful indicators and increased research.”

She says the GBD report confirms the huge impact dementia has and this only reinforces the need for countries to make responding to the condition a priority.

“Unfortunately, successive New Zealand governments have ignored the needs of Kiwis living with dementia.

“That needs to change now.”

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