The five major political issues facing dementia research in 2019
By Simon Aucott | Thursday 10 January 2019
We’ve seen incredible progress in the effort to support dementia research in recent years and hope 2019 will be no different.
From Brexit to green papers and a long-term plan for NHS England, this year offers opportunities for the government to score some big wins for dementia research. Click the arrows below to read more about the issues we’re keeping an eye on this year.
1) Government research funding
Through the Industrial Strategy, the UK has seen increased support for research and development spend. We’ll see this play out in more detail this spring in the Comprehensive Spending Review, which will set budgets for future spending. This presents an opportunity to allocate increased funding to research budgets, including dementia research.
In 2017, government invested £83.1m in dementia research, an equivalent of 0.3% of the £26bn annual cost of the condition to the UK economy. In comparison, cancer research is funded at 1.6% of the cost of the disease.
Putting just 1% of the cost of dementia towards research would fund increases in the number of dementia researchers and people taking part in research and help to bring about life-changing treatments for dementia.
You can help us ask government to make this increase to dementia research by signing and sharing our petition at alzres.uk/petition.
2) NHS England’s long-term plan
Early this year, NHS leadership laid out their long-term plan for the health system. As the country’s leading cause of death – and following our request last summer – we were happy to see dementia included in the plan.
While the plan offered some solutions for people living with dementia, we hope to see future details of the plan outline how medical providers can encourage people diagnosed with dementia to take part in research. We also hope to see greater emphasis on preparing for future dementia treatments, something we’ve been calling for since last year.
We also hope to see a continued emphasis on treating people holistically by focusing on multiple health conditions that occur together, called multimorbidity. This emphasis could help to raise awareness among health care providers about how to recognise dementia and how to better treat the other conditions that people with dementia typically have.
Alongside this plan, the expected social care green paper should provide greater support and work to improve the lives of people living with dementia and those who care for them.
3) Prevention strategies
This spring, health care leaders are expected to lay out their proposed strategies to avoid major health conditions in a prevention green paper. We hope to see a greater focus on brain health and increased awareness of dementia prevention included as a goal in this plan. Currently, only 34% of people think it’s possible to influence their risk of dementia, while 77% know they can change their risk of heart disease.
The NHS Health Check offers another opportunity to promote dementia prevention. We celebrated last June when Public Health England announced that dementia risk reduction messaging would be included in the NHS Health Check for people over 40. However, this change has not been put into effect yet and we’ll be working hard behind to the scenes to make sure this information offered in health checks as soon as possible.
4) Integration of technology into NHS
The new Health Secretary’s focus on using technology to strengthen health care also has positive implications for research.
When used safely and ethically for research, the same exchange of data that ensures patients receive the best care possible, can help to save lives too. From understanding how patients navigate the health care system to identifying people who might qualify for research studies, this data has the potential to unlock our understanding of the diseases that cause dementia, how dementia progresses, and ultimately could help us to better treat the condition.
With a leave date now less than three months away, we would be remiss if we failed to mention Brexit. While the potential impact for dementia hasn’t changed as discussions have continued, Brexit presents another challenge to dementia research as it dominates conversations making it harder for vital messages to cut through to policymakers.
We hope to see a Brexit plan that allows for the recruitment of researchers, international collaboration, and cross-border data sharing to support dementia research and ensures quick access to future treatments.
How you can help
2019 will present big challenges and big opportunities for dementia research, and we need your help!
Start by lending your voice and sign our petition to ask government to fund more dementia research than ever before. It takes just a few minutes!
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