UN High-Level meeting on non communicable diseases

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On 19-20 September 2011 the United Nation held a High-Level Meeting on Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs). This meeting witnessed the recognition of neurological diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, previously excluded from the focus of the High-Level Meeting, as contributing to the non-communicable disease burden worldwide along with cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes. In fact, as stated in the political declaration of the High-Level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases, they “recognise that mental and neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, are an important cause of morbidity and contribute to the global non-communicable disease burden, for which there is a need to provide equitable access to effective programmes and health-care interventions” [1].

The inclusion of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias in the political declaration acknowledges the increasing impact of dementia worldwide. According to Alzheimer’s disease International, 36 million people worldwide are living with dementia and this figure is expected to rise to 115 million by 2050 [2]. In May 2011, Alzheimer’s Disease International, HelpAge International and the International Longevity Centre – UK came together and held an expert stakeholder lunch in the House of Lords to consider how best to ensure the UN High-Level meeting recognised the importance of dementia and more generally a life-course approach. The focus of the preparatory documents at that time was on preventable deaths below the age of 60, despite ageing being recognised as one of the first four key drivers of NCDs in developing countries. As a result a report based on the discussion from the expert stakeholder meeting, was produced with key recommendations regarding the need for a life-course focus on prevention, treatment, management and related care issues on NCDs and the need to include Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias to reflect the current demographic trends and patterns of morbidity [3].

The recognition of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias in the political declaration of the High-Level meeting represents a successful effort undertaken by a range of national and international stakeholders in the field of ageing and health and represents a positive step forward in recognising the role of ageing and age-related illnesses in the international public policy agenda.

Valentina Serra

[1] http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/66/L.1

[2] http://www.alz.co.uk/research/WorldAlzheimerReport2011.pdf

[3] http://www.ilcuk.org.uk/files/pdf_pdf_185.pdf

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