An estimated 6.5% to 8.5% of adults over 60 in the Americas (more than 10 million people) have dementia. If current trends continue, the number of people with these conditions is expected to nearly double in the region over the next 20 years, with Latin America and the Caribbean showing the fastest increase. The stigma surrounding dementia in the region remains a major barrier to people accessing help and support. Combined with the lack of available treatments for dementia, this means that people delay talking about the disease, and seeking advice and support. Family members, who are often the primary caregivers of people with dementia in the region, play an important role in helping their loved ones receive timely diagnosis and treatment.
In honor of World Alzheimer’s Month (celebrated annually in September), and in recognition of the health burden that people with dementia face, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), in partnership with Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), undertook a month-long regional dementia awareness and anti-stigma campaign initially planned for the month of September 2019.
The Region of the Americas “Let’s Talk About Dementia” campaign aimed to get people talking more comfortably and openly about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia by encouraging often-difficult first conversations about dementia. The objective of the campaign was to demystify the disease through conversation and contribute to better planning and support for people living with dementia and their carers. Campaign materials, including posters and social media cards, were made available in Dutch, English, French, Portuguese and Spanish. They not only highlighted the importance of talking about dementia, but also its warning signs and ways to reduce risk factors for the disease.
The “Let’s Talk About Dementia Campaign” was implemented as part of the PAHO Regional Strategy and Plan of Action on Dementias in Older Persons (2015-2019), the goal of which was to promote universal access to health and universal health coverage with quality interventions for people with, or at risk of, dementia. A final report for the Plan period, which ended last year, is currently being prepared.
Social media (principally Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) was the main tool used by PAHO offices to implement the campaign, and campaign data show that the 237 social media posts disseminated through the campaign reached almost 800,000 people in the region. PAHO´s website hosted the campaign pages as well as a press release announcing it. Overall, the campaign webpages registered nearly 30,000 visits. Additionally, it received press coverage across the Region.
This 2019 ADI / PAHO campaign "Let's talk about dementia" had an impact in the region. It brought increasing awareness about the need to better understand dementia and how discussions could improve care for older adults in the Americas. There were multiple requests to adapt the materials to country contexts and as a result, the duration of the campaign was extended from the initial month of September to include October and November. Additionally, it enhanced multisectoral collaboration between civil society, Ministries of Health and PAHO Country Offices. Such institutional collaboration in the design of the campaign between the regional/country levels of both PAHO and ADI and PAHO was reflected in several countries in the execution of the campaign. Through such an inclusive process with participation of the main stakeholders, it can ensure that there will be appropriate engagement to meet the needs of people with dementia, their family members and care partners.