WHO Warns Dementia Cases to Triple

By 2050, an estimated 115.4 million people worldwide will be living with it, the agency predicted April 11 as it called dementia a public health priority.

The cost of caring for people with dementia is about to skyrocket as their numbers double by 2030 and triple by 2050, from 35.6 million today to 115.4 million by 2050, the World Health Organization and Alzheimer's Disease International predict. The Geneva, Switzerland-based WHO said dementia should be a public health priority.

The Alzheimer's Association responded by strongly supporting the WHO report's call to action, which asks all nations to develop and implement a national plan for improving early diagnosis and providing better care and more support to caregivers.

The association says the direct cost of Alzheimer's in the United States is $200 billon this year and will rise to $1.1 trillion in 2050, mainly because baby boomers are at increased risk for developing the disease as they age. Care costs are mainly covered by Medicare and Medicaid, but more than 15 million family members and friends provide unpaid care that is valued at $210 billion, the association says.

Only eight countries in the world have national programs in place to address dementia, according to WHO.

"The World Health Organization lending its powerful voice and support to elevating awareness and understanding about Alzheimer's and dementia is very significant," said Harry Johns, Alzheimer's Association president and CEO. "It underscores the organization's recognition that Alzheimer's is a public health crisis requiring urgent global attention and action. These conditions will continue to be a major public health threat increasingly affecting the social and fiscal well-being of the global community until a concerted international effort is launched to combat it."

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