Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday at an international conference on dementia care in Tokyo that Japan will work out a new national strategy to boost measures dealing with the age-linked illness in the rapidly graying country.
“By enhancing our nation’s measures regarding dementia, not only the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare but the entire government will work together to support the lives” of people suffering from dementia, Abe said on the final day of the two-day event that saw experts from around the world discuss prevention and treatment of the progressive neurological condition.
The new framework will involve revising the health ministry’s five-year plan on dementia care implemented from April last year and enhancing cooperation across government agencies.
The ministry said it plans to conduct from fiscal 2016 its first-ever nationwide study into the mechanisms of dementia development and prevention, following 100,000 men and women over the age of 40 without dementia.
The study will document their daily habits, including diet, exercise and whether they smoke, and record data collected in blood tests, such as genotype and changes in blood-sugar level, to gauge possible links to the disease.
The government hopes to draft the new strategy by year’s end to secure necessary funding in its draft national budget for fiscal 2015 starting April.
The strategy will also call for increased professional and nonprofessional support across the country for dementia sufferers and their families, making it easier for individuals with dementia to receive care in their own communities.
“Building a society where people with dementia feel at ease is a common challenge for the world. As the country with the fastest-aging population, it is our responsibility to become a model for tackling the matter,” Abe said.
But whether his government can resolve issues including funding and address the actual needs of dementia sufferers and their families remains to be seen, experts say.
Dementia is a pressing issue in Japan, where roughly 8.62 million people — around 25 percent of the population above 65 years old — either live with the illness or are at risk of developing it. The number is expected to continue rising as the country’s postwar baby boomers get older.
Britain, which hosted the dementia summit meeting of Group of Eight nations last December, adopted a national strategy on dementia care in 2009.
The event in Tokyo attended by about 300 people was one of several following up the summit in London. The World Health Organization will host a meeting of health ministers in March to spread awareness of the disease among other countries.