Over the past five years, three leading organizations-;the Alzheimer's Association, Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI), and the UK-based Alzheimer's Society-;have united to address global challenges in dementia through a competitive funding program for emerging leaders in brain health and dementia.
Today, the organizations announced the latest recipients of the Pilot Awards for Global Brain Health Leaders, which supports and develops small-scale pilot projects aimed at reducing the scale and impact of dementia across the world.
Dementia is a global health crisis. But at any given moment, there is a bright mind somewhere around the world working to fix that. The Alzheimer's Association shares the commitment toward advancing the careers of global leaders in dementia research, care, policy, and more, so we can move closer to discovering methods of care, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of this devastating disease."
Maria C. Carrillo, Ph.D., Alzheimer's Association chief science officer
The 2021 awards will drive projects that address disparities in dementia diagnosis, treatment, and care for vulnerable populations and their families. The recipients span 18 countries across five continents, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Lithuania, Mexico, Nicaragua, Sweden, UK Nigeria, Peru, Spain, Turkey, UK, USA, and Zimbabwe.
"Diversity of discipline, profession, and region is key to our success," said Victor Valcour, executive director of GBHI.
The prevalence of dementia is expected to triple worldwide to 152 million by 2050. There is currently no known cure for the diseases that cause dementia; however, according to the 2020 Lancet Commission on dementia prevention, intervention and care, up to 40% of cases could potentially be prevented by public health and lifestyle interventions.
"Across the world someone develops dementia every three seconds," said Richard Oakley, PhD, Head of Research at Alzheimer's Society. "It's critical we invest now in innovative research to tackle the most critical challenges of the future. Supporting initiatives like this will help to ensure everyone can access a dementia diagnosis as well as treatments and support across the globe."
Several Pilot Award projects focus on the social determinants of health-;or the social factors that affect the health of an individual-;like physical activity, social support, and communication. These include a study of the role of social interaction and physical activity in brain health in people with frontotemporal dementia in India, a brain health navigation social support initiative in England, and an international network for language assessment across neural disorders in Latin America.
Lack of access to resources and training can present significant barriers to dementia care. Two projects based in Ecuador-;one considering the neurocognitive and social health of older adults in the Andes and another developing a curriculum of dementia training for healthcare professionals to be delivered through the Ministry of Public Health-;aim to bring resources to remote areas, meeting a key need for populations that have historically been overlooked.
Several of this year's projects focus on education as an intervention for dementia. These include a trauma-focused physiotherapy intervention in refugees in Jordan, dance and brain health community in the USA, and a cognitive training program for adults with HIV in Zimbabwe.
The total funding of approximately $650,000 (£471,000, €559,000) includes about $25,000 (£18,100, €21,500) for each individual award to enable the recipients to test an approach and then, if successful, seek further resources to scale up their work.
The 26 awardees will join an overall portfolio of 114 pilots in 36 countries, bringing the total awarded to date to $2.85 million. The success of the initial pilot projects has resulted in an additional $1.8 million investment directly related to pilots. The visionary work of the awardees has led to a total of $32.2 million to further advancements of dementia-related projects.