Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport to organise international Defeating Dementia conference on 2 October

Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport to organise international Defeating Dementia conference on 2 October

The number of people with dementia worldwide is increasing rapidly. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 55 million people are currently living with dementia – a number that is expected to increase to 139 million by 2050. On 2 October 2023, the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS) will be organising the international Defeating Dementia conference.

The ministry does this to underscore the importance of the battle against dementia and strengthen cooperation between G20 countries, the healthcare sector, researchers and other stakeholders. Minister for Long-term Care and Sport Conny Helder will host the conference. It will take place in the Kunstmuseum in The Hague and will be organised by VWS in partnership with the World Dementia Council (WDC).

The conference will be all about the latest developments in the fields of dementia care, medicines, technologies, having people with dementia participate in society, diagnostics and prevention. Over 120 speakers and participants will gather at the conference, consisting of representatives from G20 countries, the WHO, eminent international researchers, directors of care organisations, interest groups, people with dementia and their informal carers. In addition to Minister Helder, Prime Minister Rutte will also speak at the Defeating Dementia conference. The goal is to arrive at international agreements on concrete actions to improve dementia care worldwide and on boosting investment in scientific research.

Minister Conny Helder: ‘Dementia poses an enormous challenge to societies all over the world. This is a topic that should consistently receive more attention. We are seeing very promising developments in scientific research, but we need to make substantial strides in both our efforts and our sense of urgency. As part of the National Dementia Strategy, the Netherlands has significantly increased its budget for scientific research, but we will need to increase our combined efforts to really make a difference. Joining forces at the international level is crucial to improve the lives of people with dementia and ultimately eradicate dementia entirely.’

Global impact
Dementia has far-reaching consequences for people’s lives, including the lives of friends, family and other people close to those suffering from dementia. A decline in brain function affects memory, orientation and the ability to communicate. This translates to an increasingly greater need for care and support.

The increase in the number of people with dementia is also having a drastic impact on the accessibility and affordability of care. It is estimated that dementia costs economies 1.2 trillion euros a year globally and that this will increase to 2.6 trillion euros by 2030. All of this shows how important it is that we increase international investment in scientific research and in suitable care and support for people with dementia. At the international conference, representatives from more than 20 different countries – including the United States, Japan, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Canada – will debate this issue. In doing so, they will look at the development of new medicines as well as prevention and technological innovations that could lighten the workload of informal carers and healthcare workers.

Premiere of Human Forever
Conference attendees will be able to view an abridged version of the documentary Human Forever, by healthcare innovator Teun Toebes (24). The documentary is about the journey he made with documentary film-maker Jonathan de Jong. Together, they visited 11 countries, spread across four different continents, to find out how people from all over the world deal with dementia, focusing in particular on how we can work together to ensure a hopeful future for people suffering from the disease. The premiere of the full version will be on 9 October.

As part of the afternoon programme, the international audience will also be treated to a performance by het Participatiekoor (the Participation Choir). The choir members are all people suffering from dementia or informal carers who are not suffering from dementia. They sing to the accompaniment of professional vocalists (soloists), instrumentalists and a conductor. Research into this initiative has shown that participation in this choir results in – among other things – improved cognitive function, stronger social relationships and boosted self-confidence among people with dementia.

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