Frequently Asked Questions – Global plan

This page answers some of the common questions around the World Health Organization (WHO)'s 'The global action plan on public health response to dementia 2017-2025.'

The Global plan of action on the public health response to dementia 2017-2025 was adopted by WHO Member States in May 2017. The Global plan has the power to transform the future of awareness, prevention and diagnosis, care and treatment of, and research for, dementia, but more governments need to develop national dementia policies that are fully funded, adopted and monitored.

What is dementia?

Dementia is a collective name for brain syndromes which affect memory, thinking, behaviour and emotion. The most well-known form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for 50-60% of all cases. Other forms of dementia include vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies and fronto-temporal dementia. Symptoms may include:

  • Loss of memory
  • Difficulty in finding the right words or understanding what people are saying
  • Difficulty in performing previously routine tasks
  • Personality and mood changes

What is a national plan on dementia?

When we refer to a national action plan on dementia (or “national plan”), we mean a plan formally adopted by a government that recognises the impact of dementia, by committing to take practical steps to encourage progress in key areas such as the diagnosis, research, care and treatment of the condition.

Unlike international initiatives, an action plan can address the impact of dementia in a way that is tailored to the culture and socio-demographic setting of each country.

National plans developed with the support of relevant stakeholders, namely Alzheimer associations, people living with dementia, care partners and other experts can provide a framework to collectively address a range of needs by: 

  • Promoting broad public awareness of dementia and challenging stigma
  • Identifying dementia capable support services at all stages of the disease
  • Quantifying the number of individuals with dementia and the challenges they face
  • Assessing and improving the quality of health care, social care, long-term support and services
  • Assessing availability and access to diagnostic services
  • Driving public health efforts to promote brain health and risk reduction strategies for dementia

37 governments have so far adopted an action plan on dementia and many countries or regions also have non-governmental strategies on dementia. In countries without national plans, the Alzheimer or dementia association should advocate for a plan and work with governments to formulate and implement one.

Why is the Global plan on dementia important – and what has it got to do with me?

The WHO’s Global plan recognises the impact of dementia, by committing to take practical steps to encourage progress in the seven areas of dementia as a policy priority; dementia awareness; risk reduction; diagnosis, care, treatment and support; support for care partners and research. It contains targets for each area that individual governments should meet by 2025. The WHO measures progress according to their own 194 Member States.

One of these targets is for 75% of member states to provide support and training activities for carers and families of those affected by dementia. Another is that every member state should develop a public awareness campaign on dementia to build awareness.

The Global plan on dementia makes dementia a priority for all 194 member states of the WHO, for which the majority currently have no effective plan or policies specifically addressing the impact of dementia in their country. Other countries and territories should also do so, and the Global plan is the most holistic guide to developing effective dementia policies.

The plan commits the Ministry of Health, Social Care or other department in each country to periodically report to the WHO on the progress of each area of the plan between 2017 and 2025. The plan also provides the necessary framework for more countries to introduce their own plans on dementia. This is especially important in countries with limited existing support for or awareness of dementia.

Increased coverage of diagnosis, risk reduction and improved awareness of dementia and support for people living with dementia could lead to a better quality of life for your family, friends or self now and in the future. Increased research and understanding of dementia could also lead to a disease modifying treatment.

The plan includes the fundamental acknowledgement that dementia is not a normal part of ageing and that those affected by dementia should be empowered to live as well as possible.

How can my government support people with dementia?

ADI supports the creation of governmental policies on dementia that commit to improving the lives of people living with dementia and their families through awareness, practical development of healthcare and infrastructure for dementia services and encouragement of improved diagnosis, treatment and research.

To develop a plan, governments must consult widely with a broad base of key stakeholders including people with dementia, their families and care partners, Alzheimer associations and other dementia advocacy organisations, healthcare professionals, care providers, policy makers and others to establish a clear dementia plan that:

  • Is based on evidence with clearly defined targets, roles and responsibilities for implementation
  • Includes a system for effective monitoring and evaluation
  • Is supported by committed funds and leadership at the national or state level

Every year ADI produces an extensive policy report From plan to impact, which provides an overview of the current national responses to dementia around the world, offering a critical update on global progress towards the Global action plan.

In 2016 and 2017, ADI undertook a review of existing national and sub-national dementia plans from around the world in relation to intellectual developmental disabilities and dementia, early detection and diagnosis, involvement of people with dementia and training. The resulting information has been transferred into a series of small papers that provide a detailed overview and comparison of the approaches taken by governments. 

What is a dementia friendly community?

Dementia friendly communities have the power to change the way we think about living with dementia by enabling everyday services, environments and those within them to better engage with people affected by, or living with, dementia.

A dementia friendly community can be defined as a place or culture in which people with dementia and their carers are empowered, supported and included in society, understand their rights and recognise their full potential.

In 2016, ADI published twin reports on the key principles and global examples of dementia friendly communities, supported by a dedicated webpage containing resources and examples of dementia friendly communities worldwide. Dementia Friendly Communities; Global developments (2nd edition)was published in September 2017.