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It Takes Us All: Ending Alzheimer's Is a Global Effort

It Takes Us All: Ending Alzheimer's Is a Global Effort
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December 13, 2018
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In my 14 years traveling to more than 25 countries with the Alzheimer’s Association, one thing has been made abundantly clear to me: no person or place is immune to Alzheimer’s disease. 

The impact Alzheimer’s and other dementias have on individuals, families and health care systems is devastating, and will only grow with the aging of the population. The differing ways that Alzheimer’s is perceived and experienced by cultures and communities around the globe adds another complicating layer to the disease that demands our attention and understanding. Solving Alzheimer’s disease is the biggest challenge medical science faces this century.

There is widespread recognition that the unique cultural, demographic, and economic characteristics of individual countries demand country- and culturally-specific plans to address the burden of the disease and gaps in research. By more broadly sharing locally-conducted research and statistics, the international research community can better collaborate and find commonalities.

In addition to conducting our own research, the Alzheimer’s Association is committed to supporting global research initiatives through convening, funding and advocating on behalf of the international research community. We are dedicated to identifying ways the global Alzheimer’s research community can collaborate across international borders toward the mutual goal of finding better treatments, preventions and eventually a cure.

Recognizing the need to create more opportunities to assemble the international research community, and ensure that early career researchers around the world have opportunities to learn from and present their research to global leading researchers, the first annual Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) was convened in 2000. The conference has since expanded to include smaller symposia, starting with Mexico City in December 2015, which bring together researchers and policy experts from 14 countries across the Americas and Spain.

Since then, we’ve held similar symposia in Varna, Bulgaria, and Buenos Aires, Argentina. Through collaboration with the Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI), the symposium in Buenos Aires brought together a diverse network of more than 300 Latin American researchers, clinicians, policy makers, and scholars, along with colleagues from Spain and other European countries, the U.S., and Australia. The meeting was also an opportunity to convene South American families affected by a rare inherited form of Alzheimer’s who are part of the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer’s Network (DIAN). 

On December 18 and 19, Bengaluru, India will host the Alzheimer’s Association’s fourth AAIC Satellite Symposium. Much like the U.S., India’s population has a high prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease. An estimated 4.4 million individuals in India are living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Only ten percent of those individuals have been diagnosed. That number is anticipated to grow rapidly to 14.3 million people by 2030. 

This conference aims to share the latest in dementia research with scientists in India and across Asia, while showcasing the important research being conducted locally, such as examining the relationship between yoga, meditation and brain health. The Alzheimer’s Association has partnered with two leading local groups — the India Institute of Science's Brain Research Centre and the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences. We are deeply grateful for their efforts.

The crucial work of encouraging data sharing and collaboration doesn’t stop there. In 2019, the Alzheimer’s Association will again collaborate with GBHI and researchers in South America to bring an AAIC Satellite Symposium to Brazil. 

Alzheimer’s is a global problem, and it demands a global solution. Through these Satellite Symposia, the great work of the global research community and other international collaborative efforts, we continue to move closer to discovering methods of treatment and prevention, and ultimately, a cure.

About the author: As chief science officer, Maria C. Carrillo, Ph.D., sets the strategic vision for the Alzheimer’s Association global research program. Under her leadership, the Association is the world’s largest nonprofit funder of Alzheimer’s research.

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