Implement action plan on dementia as WHO suggests

dementia disease

Although it is believed there is no cure for dementia, there is compelling evidence that early detection can provide sound basis for prevention

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World Alzheimer’s day, Dementia , World Alzheimer Report 2021, World Health Organisation,

Dementia is one of the world’s top killer diseases. It now plays in the same league as heart, pulmonary, stroke, respiratory infections, neonatal conditions, and cancer.

According to the World Alzheimer Report 2021, dementia has overtaken diabetes, kidney and diarrhoeal diseases to become the seventh leading cause of death globally and one of those health conditions with the heaviest financial burden on families.

The report further notes that there are 55 million people living with dementia globally with nearly 10 million new cases every year. This is a staggering figure by any standard and worse, it is estimated that it will rise to about 78 million by 2030. Sadly, 75 per cent of people with dementia are not diagnosed. The number could be higher in Kenya, where stigma and lack of awareness remain major barriers to diagnosis. The illness impairs the ability to think, remember, and reason.

The World Health Organisation data published in 2020 shows that Alzheimer and dementia deaths in Kenya reached 1,827 or 0.7 per cent of total deaths. Kenya ranks 76th in dementia death rates in the world. Alzheimer's disease causes the brain to shrink, killing its cells and it’s the most common cause of dementia.

 Multi-sectoral approach

These are scaring and worrying statistics taking into account that the WHO regards dementia as one of the major causes of disability and dependency among senior citizens. Even with the 90 per cent not diagnosed, cases of dementia in Kenya are on the increase and this calls for urgent multi-sectoral approach from the government, private sector and the society to fight the disease.

Although it is believed there is no cure for the disease, there is compelling evidence that early detection can provide sound basis for prevention. And this is where all scientific, government and social efforts should be geared towards: prevention, because as we all know, prevention is better than cure!

As the world prepares to mark the World Alzheimer’s day next month (September 21), this is a clarion call to the government to take seriously the proposals of the WHO urging governments to prioritise mainstreaming dementia in their national health care policies and come up with and implement a dementia national action plan in Kenya.

Jacinta Maweu is a senior lecturer in Philosophy and Media Studies at the University of Nairobi. Email: [email protected]


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