G-7 health chiefs vow to boost dementia care measures

Kyodo, JIJI

Health ministers from the Group of Seven industrialized countries agreed Monday to boost dementia care measures amid the rapid graying of societies, as they wrapped up a two-day meeting in Kobe.

Representatives from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States and the European Union acknowledged the importance of “building a system of caring for (people with dementia) within the communities” where they live, health minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki said at a news conference after the meeting.

The ministers also agreed to improve dementia patients’ lives through early diagnosis and better care, while encouraging research that could speed up the development of dementia therapies, according to their joint declaration.

It is the first time that the G-7 health chiefs have focused on dementia-related issues, according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry. The outcome reflected discussions at the G-7 leaders’ summit in May in Mie Prefecture, where the G-7 members confirmed the need to address problems related to aging.

Dementia is a growing problem around the world, with roughly 47 million people living with the illness. That number is expected to roughly triple by 2050, according to the World Health Organization.

The WHO is expected to support action plans on dementia preservation and early-stage diagnosis.

The health ministry hopes that the current measures Japan is taking, including support for people with dementia and their families, will serve as a guide for other countries facing similar problems.

In Kobe, the health chiefs also agreed to strengthen measures to fight infectious diseases like Ebola and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Senior officials from such Asian countries as Laos, Myanmar, Singapore and Thailand — where the rapid aging of societies is feared to become a pressing issue — also attended the meeting.

Coinciding with the health ministers’ meeting, the World Economic Forum compiled a report that highlights the usefulness of face-recognition technology and other kinds of information technology in preventing financial fraud that often targets elderly people.

The report also proposes that employees at financial institutions be trained to detect clients at risk of developing dementia so they can provide proper support.

In a related move, the World Health Organization Kobe Center and Kobe University have said they will start large-scale dementia research on the city’s residents citizens next year, aiming to verify the effectiveness of preventive treatments.

Picking some 8,000 people aged 70 or older who have a higher risk of developing the disease from 50,000 Kobe residents, the institutions and their partners will also examine the effects of early detection and diagnosis.

The study, one of world’s largest and aimed at preventing and suppressing dementia symptoms, will use checklists distributed to Kobe citizens in their 70s with even-numbered ages to evaluate their risk of becoming in need of nursing care.