Eastern Mediterranean regional workshop to speed up the implementation of the Global Action Plan on Dementia

The World Health Organization (WHO), in collaboration with the Qatar Ministry of Public Health and Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), attended a workshop organized by the WHO Collaboration Centre for Healthy Ageing and Dementia. The three-day regional workshop, which took place from 16 to 18 September 2023 in Doha, was dedicated to reviewing and expediting the progress made in the implementation of the Global Action Plan on the Public Health Response to Dementia 2017-2025 in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.

Dementia is the seventh leading cause of death and a leading contributor to disability worldwide. Presently, over 55 million people are living with dementia, where 61% of which live in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) and the number is expected to rise to approximately 78 million by 2030. Dementia, in addition, poses an enormous burden on individuals, families, and society overall, and much of this burden falls on women as they have higher rates of dementia and are more likely to provide care to people living with dementia.

To support Member States in developing national responses and to help improve the lives of people with dementia, their families, and caregivers, the Seventieth World Health Assembly adopted the Global Action Plan on the Public Health Response to Dementia 2017-2025 in 2017. The Global Action Plan comprises seven action areas which are: dementia as a public health priority; dementia awareness and friendliness; dementia risk reduction; dementia diagnosis, treatment, care and support; support for dementia carers; information systems for dementia and dementia research and innovation. Most recently, the WHO report to Member States during the 76th World Health Assembly indicated that urgent accelerated efforts are needed across all areas and in all countries to reach the global action plan’s targets by 2025.

In her opening remarks, the WHO representative to Qatar, Dr Rayana Bou Haka reiterated that “The dignity of people living with dementia should be at the center of the services provided.” She added “It takes a whole village to take care of a person with dementia and a whole of society approach is what we need to invest in.”

Dr. Salih Ali Al Marri, Assistant Minister for Health Affairs, Qatar Ministry of Public Health, expressed his appreciation for Qatar to have been selected by the WHO EMRO office to hold its regional workshop on the Implementation of the Global Action Plan on the Public Health Response to Dementia 2017-25.

“It has been a pleasure to work with colleagues and partners at WHO as we strategize and develop innovative solutions to common healthcare challenges. Dr. Hanan Al Kuwari, Minister of Public Health in Qatar, is passionate about illness prevention through better health literacy, early screening programs and promoting healthy lifestyle practices, and she fully endorses all activities that support this. I hope many more productive meetings will follow as we strive together to improve the care for this cohort of patients,” added Dr. Al Marri.

Dr. Abdulla Al-Ansari, Chief Medical Officer at Hamad Medical Corporation, said that strong collaboration between WHO and HMC teams has helped Qatar define its National Dementia Plan, which has been instrumental in enhancing dementia care and services in the country.  

“For us to make a real and sustainable difference in the lives of people living with dementia we need a multi-pronged approach in our healthcare strategy. This includes a focus on the development of better, more integrated healthcare services targeted at this population group. Another focus is on prevention, where we aim to improve health literacy, screening and lifestyle practices that are linked to dementia risk factors,” added.

Dr. Hanadi Al-Hamad, the head of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Healthy Ageing and Dementia has reassured the Centre’s commitment to leverage and establish a regional network for knowledge sharing that would support building capacities and capabilities, as well as fostering cross-regional collaborations to help promote geriatric best practice in the Region.

“Our joint efforts are aimed at helping to ensure that dementia is given the strategic attention and priority necessary to effect sustainable change in public perception of dementia and enhancing care pathways and services. In Qatar, we focus on increasing public awareness, improving diagnosis, and enhancing support for our dementia patients and caregivers equally. We are also committed to encouraging more targeted research and innovation in this field. Through collaboration, we can also work on better protecting the rights of people living with dementia,” says Dr. Al-Hamad.

Over three days, more than 50 representatives from ministries of health (MOHs), persons with lived experience, and civil society organizations, exchanged experiences and insights into country-specific needs, available resources, and key priority areas in relation to strengthening their national dementia response and monitoring its progress. The workshop also provided an opportunity to forge partnerships and alliances between Member States, civil society organizations and, people living with dementia and their caregivers to work closely to implement the actions identified as priorities for country implementation plans discussed at the workshop. Action on reducing the risk of dementia, enhancing the availability of care for dementia, and supporting caregivers of people living with dementia were among the most commonly identified action areas across all the countries.

While it was evident that there are wide variations in material, human and structural resources, and capacities across countries in the Region, it was also clear that there are opportunities available to strengthen and expedite the public health response to dementia in all countries, irrespective of the resources. The need is to promote a ‘whole of society’ and ‘whole of government’ approach to ensure action across the domains of promotion, prevention, diagnosis, management, rehabilitation, end-of-life care and support for the caregivers of persons living with dementia.

As one of the participants observed “the measure of a society’s development is how it treats its older, weaker population, those who are vulnerable and in need of special care and support”. Building a system which provides for persons living with dementia to have a dignified and independent life is an ultimate test of our commitment to the SDG2030 agenda of ‘No one left behind’.

For more information on WHO’s dementia response see: https://www.who.int/health-topics/dementia#tab=tab_1

Global Dementia Observatory: Global Dementia Observatory (GDO) (who.int)

GDO Knowledge Exchange Platform: www.globaldementia.org