Dementia is universally feared and stigmatized because it is mistakenly viewed as a gradual part of aging. There has been no research found to treat these symptoms, but there are ways to care for and uplift those in need to reduce the risk of dementia around the globe — including Africa.
5 Facts to Raise Awareness About Dementia in Africa
- Dementia is an umbrella term under which Alzheimer’s disease can fall. Dementia is categorized as a syndrome and does not have a definitive diagnosis. It is a group of symptoms that affect mental cognitive tasks such as memory and reasoning, Health Line reported. According to Health Line, as dementia progresses with age, it can have an impact on the ability to function independently, placing an emotional and financial burden on families.
- Dementia currently affects more than 47 million people worldwide. More than 75 million people are expected to be living with dementia by 2030. Dementia in Africa will rise over the next decades due to an aging population, an increase in noncommunicable diseases and the effects of the HIV pandemic. Even though there has been a reduction in HIV contractions, the disease still leaves its mark as a conduit for dementia. According to The Conversation, South Africa accounts for 17 percent of the global burden of HIV infection. HIV is linked with cognitive decline and leads to HIV-associated dementia (HAD). The Conversation stresses that health care and social care systems are a crucial step toward getting society involved and aware. The World Health Organization (WHO) had a conference in 2015 to discuss global action against dementia. The committee stated that raising generational awareness was essential for encouraging action from younger generations. There is a need to search for disease-modifying therapy, improve care and quality of life and reduce the risk of dementia in Africa.
- The WHO emphasized that people must embed a rights-based approach in all interventions. Specifically, the WHO’s committee illustrated the importance that people living with dementia deserve empowerment. The goal is to provide support to exercise their rights and have access to enhanced autonomy to reduce the risk of dementia in Africa. Margaret Chan, director-general at the WHO, offered her view on the conference and its goals.“I can think of no other disease where innovation, including breakthrough discoveries to develop a cure, is so badly needed,” Chan said.
- The First WHO Ministerial Conference on Global Action Against Dementia sought to promote a better understanding of dementia, raise public awareness and engagement, demand respect for the human rights of people living with dementia, reduce stigma and discrimination, and foster greater participation, social inclusion and integration. The approval of the WHO Global Action Plan on Dementia in May 2017 allowed Alzheimer’s Disease International to put greater pressure on governments to take the issue with urgency and reduce the risk of dementia in Africa. In the African continent, there is a need for new studies to evaluate dementia prevalence, incidence, mortality and to monitor changes over time. According to WYLD Network, these studies are crucial to emphasize to governments, local and international organizations the necessity to target health policies for older people and the development of strategies for dementia care in sub-Saharan Africa.
- As the WHO progresses toward awareness to reduce the risk of dementia in Africa, it instilled an international surveillance platform, the Global Dementia Observatory. The WHO established this for policy-makers and researchers to facilitate monitoring and sharing of information on dementia policies, service delivery, epidemiology and research.
While there is no cure for dementia, several plans like the Global Action Plan on Dementia pave the way for successful care of those developing dementia. Updated research to reduce the risk of dementia in Africa is essential to inform officials of the development and empowerment for the most vulnerable.
– Carolina Chaves
Photo: Creative Commons