Japan-UK Dementia Symposium

The Japan-UK Dementia Symposium was held at the Embassy of Japan in London, on the 10th of November 2015, and as Young Leaders in Dementia representatives we had the tremendous opportunity to attend this event.

The symposium was opened by the Japanese Ambassador to the UK, Mr. Keiichi Hayashi, drawing attention to the growing number of dementia patients Japan is facing and the governmental strategy to deal with and care for them. Improvements in medical as well as social care, together with early intervention to provide better treatments are critical components on the agenda and shared aspects with the UK strategy. By joining their efforts Japan and the UK could increase their chances of defeating dementia and this symposium mark the origin of this collaboration.

I will concentrate on the first section of the symposium, which was structured around the latest trends and the future of dementia policy and community care in Japan and the UK. This section compared the efforts of both countries.

We heard from Dr. Kenji Toba, president of the National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology in Japan, that effective dementia strategies were urgently needed given the aging wave that Japan is experiencing and the future predictions. He presented Japan’s New Orange Plan to promote and deliver dementia measures which was launched in January this year. This 2 year strategy for the Organized Registration for Assessment of Dementia on a nation-wide General Consortium (ORANGE), is centered around 7 key–actions:

  1. Inclusion of people with dementia and their family caregivers
  2. An educational program focused on raising awareness of Dementia and creating a better understanding of the disease
  3. Providing medical and health care services adequate to each stage of the dementia process
  4. Promoting dementia-friendly communities
  5. Improving support for caregivers
  6. Research into prevention and new drug discovery
  7. Reinforcement of measurement of detection for early onset dementia patients

This initiative is comparable to other global strategies pursued worldwide such as the EPAD project in Europe or AIBL in Australia. The New Orange Plan is expected to change the way that people with dementia are perceived, treated and cared for through the creation of clinical trials for disease-modifying therapies together with biomarkers for risk factor detection and integrated therapies for care.

David Wallon, Maria Herve, Tim Rittman and Elena Ribe at the Japan-UK dementia symposium

From the UK perspective, Ms Lorraine Jackson, Deputy Director on Dementia Policy, Department of Health in UK, presented the First National Dementia Strategy. Launched in 2009, the strategy led to the Prime Minister´s Challenge on Dementia (2012-15), part of which covered the expansion of diagnosis rates to two thirds of the UK’s dementia population and to diagnose dementia earlier, more accurately and quicker. This was necessary as only diagnosed patients receive access to appropriate care. Ms Jackson presented the Challenge’s progress to date and reported that diagnosis rates had improved since the plan was launched in 2012 from 38.6% to 66.2% in September 2015. To build on these ambitious targets, the original program has been succeeded in February 2015 by the Prime Minister´s Challenge on Dementia 2020, focused on risk reduction.

The creation of the Dementia Friendly Communities programme (an idea originating in Japan), focused on improving the inclusion and quality of life for people with dementia and associated with the Prime Minister’s Challenge. This programme has been successful, with the number of dementia-friendly communities having grown from 45 in 2014 to over 85 across the UK in 2015. Furthermore since the implementation of the plan over 500,000 NHS staff had been trained in detection of symptoms and appropriate dealing with dementia patients.

With dementia being a growing, global challenge as the population ages and having a fundamental impact on people living with the condition, their families and society in general it is one of the biggest challenges mankind is facing today. This symposium was focused on the necessary restructure of public and healthcare services to provide better access to healthcare, long-term care and consistent support post-diagnosis for patients and family caregivers. It addressed societal changes to integrate a growing number of dementia patients and necessary research to improve treatments in Japan and the United Kingdom.

Elena M. Ribe
University of Oxford