The economic burden of dementia today is US$ 1 trillion, with a catastrophic social impact. Governments need to take proactive steps in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s and similar diseases as currently that is the only way to get healthcare costs under control. “The current cost to society of Alzheimer’s and related diseases – for example healthcare or lost hours of work – are such that the economy of entire countries can be undermined,” comments Paola Barbarino, CEO of Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), in a webinar hosted by the Stetson Family Office on the prevention of Alzheimer’s. “Risk Reduction has been highlighted as the key element in managing the dementia epidemic. It has been estimated that at least 30% of Alzheimer’s disease can be influenced, including blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, physical activity, depression and education.”

Barbarino is referring to the Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability (FINGER Study – identifier NCT01041989). “It’s a pioneering multidomain two-year randomized controlled research trial and the first in the world to show that multidomain lifestyle-based intervention of diet, exercise, cognitive training, vascular and metabolic risk management can significantly reduce the risk of cognitive decline among at risk elderly persons from the general population. No Alzheimer’s disease drug trial has yet shown such effect,” says Barbarino.

The intervention was beneficial even in people with genetic susceptibility for dementia and can improve health related quality of life and reduce the risk of other chronic diseases. Cognitive decline is no longer an inevitable consequence of ageing, but can be reduced with multidomain interventions. 

Public health emergency

“Governments are not doing enough to inform people about what they can do. There is a public health emergency now and we need to do as much as we can globally in order to make sure that each government takes the health of their population at heart. With World Alzheimer’s Month and Day we reach at least 900,000 people globally. But if you think about how many people there are in the world today that’s still a very small percentage of all the people out there.” 

In denial of dementia

ADI is launching a number of initiatives in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) to improve the awareness at governmental level, in the medical sector and with the general public. “What we find at ADI is that some governments actually don’t want to talk about dementia and are in fact a little bit in denial.” 

Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) is the global voice of dementia. “As an international federation of 94 Alzheimer associations around the world, in official relations with the World Health Organization we are amongst the biggest promoters of the Global Plan of Action on the Public Health Response to Dementia 2017-2025. The Global plan was adopted by WHO Member States at the 70th World Health Assembly in May 2017.

As the Global plan states: “It is an important opportunity for individuals, communities and Member States to realize the vision of a world in which dementia is prevented and people with dementia and their carers receive the care and support they need to live a life with meaning and dignity.” 

The WHO, together with ADI and partners, is working on the implementation and acceleration of the Global plan at global, regional and national levels.


Global action plan on the public health response to dementia 2017–2025. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2017. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.