Dementia is now the third leading cause of death in Australia and no cure exists. Over 320,000 Australians suffer from dementia, including one in four Australians over the age of 85. The increasing prevalence is placing a growing emotional and financial burden on patients, their families and friends. By 2050 it is estimated that nearly one million Australians will have dementia, and 7,500 Australians will be diagnosed each week, with a far greater number living with this progressive disabling condition.
Accelerating innovation in the potential prevention, diagnosis, treatment and management of dementia (including its most prevalent form, Alzheimer’s disease), is a global priority.
The Australian Government announced as part of the 2014 Budget an additional $200 million over five years to boost Australia’s dementia research capacity. Further detail: Budget Paper No. 2, Part 2: Expense Measures - Health
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), working in close collaboration with the Australian Research Council (ARC) on capacity building, is also delivering a series of initiatives to prioritise and fund vital new dementia research projects and translate research to improve prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care for dementia patients, their carers and communities.
The Boosting Dementia Research initiative incorporates two main components over five years:
$150 million is allocated to urgently scale up dementia research to accelerate progress towards finding preventions, treatments and cures for dementia. It includes $26 million of Australian Research Council funding research focused on the social, economic and cultural impacts and complex consequences of dementia. It involves:
- additional large scale research projects in priority areas of dementia using relevant NHMRC schemes ($95 million);
- research focusing on dementia prevention and treatment at the Clem Jones Centre for Ageing Dementia Research ($9 million); and
- dramatic expansion of research capacity in dementia and by building the future research workforce ($46 million).
$50 million is allocated to target, co-ordinate and translate the national research effort to ensure existing and new research translates into better care for dementia patients. A new NHMRC National Institute for Dementia Research will be established to prioritise and boost dementia research in Australia and provide the focus to rapidly translate evidence into policy and practice. The Institute will ensure integration with international research and draw on the expertise of researchers, consumers, health professionals, industry and policy makers to improve dementia prevention, treatment and care outcomes.
The specific elements of the Boosting Dementia Research Initiative are described in more detail below.