The high rate of dementia in some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is being targeted through five ground-breaking research projects that aim to boost dementia prevention, slow its onset and improve the lives of First Peoples living with the condition.
The Australian Government has allocated $14 million through the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to tackle the rising challenge of Aboriginal dementia.
“These projects are an important part of The Australian Government’s $200 million Boosting Dementia Research initiative, to fast-track interventions and treatment and keep Australia at the forefront of this critical field,” said Aged Care Minister and Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt.
“Projects like this are fundamental to our commitment to work with First Peoples to Close the Gap in health equality.
“From physical fitness to brain training, we expect this research to generate information that will translate directly into improved health outcomes and a better quality of life for Aboriginal Australians with dementia.
“Our senior First Nations people can experience dementia at more than three times the rate of other Australians, with earlier onset.
“The full extent of dementia among our people is unclear but preliminary data from the Kimberley suggests that one in eight aged 45 years or older may be affected.”
Among the five NHMRC funding recipients is Dr Kate Smith, who will lead a University of Western Australia team looking to better identify and manage dementia risk factors, thanks to a $2.5 million grant.
Dr Smith’s Dementia Prevention and Risk Management Program for Aboriginal Australians (DAMPAA) will run over five years, at sites in Perth and Geraldton.
It will work closely with local Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services, targeting at-risk people and trialling the impact of physical activity and a cardiovascular management program on the development of dementia.
The five dementia research projects funded across three States include:
- Dementia prevention courses in Aboriginal communities
- Intensive risk management.
- Developing online support tools for decreasing dementia
“This work is crucial because our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders are our living libraries and losing each individual means a precious book of knowledge is lost forever,” said Minister Wyatt.
At present, an estimated 425,000 Australians are living with dementia. Without a medical breakthrough, this number is expected to increase to more than one million by 2050.