Sajid Javid, the UK health and social care secretary, has announced a ten-year initiative to tackle dementia with increased research into neurodegenerative diseases.
Speaking at the annual Alzheimer’s Society Conference, Mr Javid outlined a plan that will focus on boosting research into new medicines and scientific and technological innovations, and how they can be harnessed to improve health outcomes for patients diagnosed with dementia.
The health secretary told delegates at the conference that the focus of his strategy will be on prevention and research, promising a “seismic shift” in the current approach to the condition.
The ten-year plan will seek to reduce 40 per cent of potentially preventable dementia diagnoses while also supporting those currently living with the disease with their health and care needs.
Mr Javid commented: “It’s estimated that as much as 40 per cent of dementia is potentially preventable. We now know that what’s good for the heart is also good for the brain. Action on high blood pressure, physical inactivity, alcohol, obesity and healthy eating all have a part to play.
“So we’re going to be very ambitious on prevention, because I don’t accept that dementia is an inevitable part of ageing. It isn’t. We’re going to be equally ambitious on research,” he continued.
The government has already committed £375 million to research into neurodegenerative diseases, promising that efforts would be boosted across government in a plan Mr Javid considers to be “more ambitious than anything we’ve done before”.
However, Mark MacDonald, the associate director of advocacy and system change at the Alzheimer’s Society, is wary of the government’s promise. He commented on the redundancy of the health secretary’s words if not backed by adequate funding and delivery mechanisms:
“For too long government action has not matched the scale and impact of dementia. We welcome the secretary of state’s ambitious words today but we must now see this translate quickly into meaningful delivery plans for which ministers should be held accountable.”
There are currently more than 900,000 people living with dementia in the UK, a number projected to increase to over one million by 2030. There is currently no cure for the disease, but early diagnosis can greatly improve quality of life.