Concerted international action is needed to help the victims of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia around the world, said Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations, on the eve of Alzheimer’s Action Day 2013.
Scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 21, Alzheimer’s Action Day is set aside for Alzheimer’s organizations around the world to focus their efforts on raising awareness about Alzheimer’s and dementia. September is the second World Alzheimer’s Month.
“Alzheimer’s disease and dementia pose a growing threat to the world’s physical and financial health and well being, and if unaddressed could turn what is a crisis today into a catastrophe in the near future,” said Smith, co-chair of the bipartisan, bicameral Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer's Disease. “On the personal level, Alzheimer’s and dementia are dreaded illnesses that bring intense, protracted suffering to victims and their families. For members of the baby boom generation—as both caregivers for elderly parents and as they approach their own retirement years—Alzheimer’s and dementia have become a major health concern.”
“On Alzheimer’s Action Day, we honor Alzheimer’s patients, and we honor the people who love and care for them,” said Smith’s fellow co-chair of the Alzheimer’s caucus, Rep. Maxine Waters (CA-43). “Alzheimer’s patients deserve a life with dignity. Let us rededicate ourselves to doing all we can to support and assist all those who are affected by this tragic disease.”
Smith (R-N.J.) and Waters (D-Calif.) said the health threat has been prioritized around the world. The World Health Organization last year issued a report declaring the various forms of dementia to be a global public health priority. Recognizing the current and looming crisis, the WHO has called for making dementia a public health priority. Most recently British Prime Minister David Cameron called for a G8 global dementia summit, to be held in December to forge a multinational effort against Alzheimer's and dementia. Peter Piot, who led the United Nations’ global AIDS effort, labeled dementia “one of the largest neglected global health challenges of our generation.” About 36 million people worldwide are estimated to be affected by Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia – more than the estimated 33.4 million living with HIV-AIDS globally.
In 2010, 73 worldwide Alzheimer’s federations released a report that estimated that the global cost of dealing with dementia was $604 billion. The report stated that one percent of the world’s gross domestic product was devoted to dementia care. By 2030, global societal costs are expected to increase by 85 percent, and such costs likely will rise much faster in low and middle income countries.
In 2011 Congress passed The National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA) co-authored by Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Smith (R-NJ). The law created the Advisory Council on Alzheimer’s Research, Care and Services, which produced the first National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease and issued an update to the plan earlier this year. (Click here to read the national plan) Globally about a dozen nations have adopted national plans like NAPA, and similar efforts have additionally been undertaken by regions of nations and non-governmental organizations.
An active member of the Congressional Alzheimer’s Caucus, Congressman Smith has held several hearings on this disease, including the June 23, 2011 hearing entitled “Global Strategies to Combat the Devastating Health and Economic Impact of Alzheimer’s Disease.” He is co-sponsor of several current pieces of legislation regarding the impact of Alzheimer’s and dementia, including H.R. 1619 (Making Investments Now for Dementia Act of 2013), H.R. 2975 (Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Act) and H.R. 2976 (Missing Alzheimer’s Disease Patient Alert Program Reauthorization Act of 2013).
For more information on the national plan to address Alzheimer’s disease, visit: www.alzheimers.gov.