Dementia given high priority at G20 Health Ministers Meeting

21 October 2019 – 2019 has been a significant year of advocacy by Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), during the Japanese Presidency of the G20. Over the weekend, ADI’s Chief Executive Paola Barbarino and Noriyo Washizu of Alzheimer's Association Japan (AAJ) were in Japan in the build-up to the G20 Health Ministers Meeting, to focus attention and to keep the momentum going from their work earlier this year during the Osaka Summit.

The Health Ministers Meeting, which brought together Ministers of Health from 19 countries and the European Union, as well as invited guest countries and organisations, facilitated high-level discussion of major issues of global health. ADI, in coordination with its members in G20 countries, sent letters of support to each Minister of Health, calling for strong leadership to ensure that the commitments made in the G20 Osaka summit declaration about dementia were delivered. Dementia indeed featured heavily in the Okayama Declaration of the G20 Health Ministers, displaying an ongoing commitment of the G20 to addressing the biggest health and social care crisis of the 21st century.

The Okayama Declaration contained various important commitments around dementia, spanning six articles of the document.

Article 29 states: “We commit to developing and implementing multi-sectoral national action plans, adopting integrated approaches on dementia in line with the Global Action Plan to improve the quality of care and the quality of life of people with dementia, their families and caregivers.”

Currently there are only 32 national plans in existence against a WHO target of 146 by 2025.  National plans are the most important tools for governments in developing a strategy to tackle dementia and we are reassured by G20 countries taking such a global lead.

Article 30 of the Declaration addressed risk factors and social determinants of dementia, early detection, diagnosis, and interventions and strengthening primary health care.

An important commitment was: “We also recognize the importance of including older persons with disabilities in efforts to support healthy and active ageing, including the provision of social and health services in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”

ADI and AAJ welcome the strong commitments to Healthy Ageing, with specific commitment to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Decade of Ageing. 

Paola’s visit to Japan was in recognition that Japan has been a leader in dementia and healthy ageing for a number of years and to ensure that they continue to take this role as global leader further. Paola began the trip in Tokyo by speaking at the World Dementia Council meeting, highlighting the global impact of dementia and the need for governments’ to honour their commitment made at the World Health Assembly in 2017 by developing, implementing and fully funding national dementia plans. She spoke with Asahi Shinbun newspaper, highlighting key aspects of dementia policy, including stigma, prevention and dementia friendly initiatives during a two-hour interview. She then met with a cross-party group of Japanese Parliamentarians for in-depth discussion of Japan being a global leader in dementia response and a forthcoming updated Japanese dementia strategy.

Paola said: “This is a watershed moment for ADI and the international dementia movement. Everything we asked for in the last year is present in this Declaration, from policy making to awareness, risk reduction, care, support for carers, data and research and it includes a strong reference to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). We also note the strong acknowledgement of the WHO Global Action plan (which we worked so hard for) and the reference to the role that OECD can play. The overall framing into the importance of encouraging healthy ageing is also extremely relevant.

“We know that lots of wonderful words do not make this a reality and we will continue to monitor the execution of these intentions very closely, but we are heartened and encouraged and feel the G20 Health Ministers have really listened to our plea to create a better life for people living with dementia and their carers.”

Noriyo Washizu (AAJ) was also very encouraged by the Declaration, saying: “One of the most significant things is that "People with dementia, the families and the caregivers" appeared a key focus. AAJ will continue to support the Government to focus on building an inclusive society, and we will be active partners in the development of the new dementia strategy, which will improve the lives of the 7 million people who are projected to live with dementia in Japan by 2025.”

ADI and its members are delighted to see the ongoing commitment of the G20 in a number of key areas of the Health Ministers Meeting declaration. Japan has been a leader in dementia and healthy ageing for a number of years and it is most encouraging to see that the Government has been so willing to engage with civil society throughout this process. This level of open dialogue will ensure that dementia received the attention and robust policy action it so urgently needs.

Paola is available for interview. Please contact a.bliss@alz.co.uk for media requests or questions.