Published on: March 7, 2012
Dementia should be made a top health priority on a par with cancer and lung disease, a leading expert has said, after it has become the next global “time bomb”.
by Hannah Furness for The Telegraph
Professor Peter Piot, former Under-Secretary General of the United Nations, compared dementia to the AIDs epidemic and said one person is diagnosed with the mental illness every seven seconds.
The population of sufferers, which currently stands at 36 million, is set to double by 2020 worldwide. He is now calling on the World Health Organisation to add dementia to their list of top priority diseases to fund research and treatment across the globe.
He said: “It’s not adding years to your life, but life to your years.”
Despite his calls to improve diagnosis, Prof Piot admitted it may not always be ethical to diagnose the condition, in parts of the world where treatment is not yet available.
He told BBC Radio4’s Today programme that developing countries in Asia and Latin America were seeing the greatest rise in dementia sufferers, as better healthcare led to people living longer.
Prof Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: “The figures speak for themselves. We are really going into the next global health time bomb.
“I have worked for the last 30 years on AIDs. That was a time bomb several decades ago and it’s still not over. “But the figures are there. Today 36 million people are living with dementia. Every seven seconds there is a new case and we will see a doubling in the number of people by 2020.
“People in the emerging economies, like Asia and Latin America, are living longer and dementia is progressing fastest there in terms of the numbers. “It’s affecting, families, communities and of course the people themselves.”
He added that the idea dementia was an inevitable part of aging is a “myth” and that early diagnosis would allow sufferers to make legal, financial and care arrangements.
The World Health Organisation list of priorities currently comprises of cancer, lung disease, diabetes and chronic heart disease.
Research has demonstrated that, when it comes to medical concerns, the fear of developing Alzheimer’s (and other forms of dementia) exceeds the fear of every other type of health condition.
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