STATEMENT BY MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
HONOURABLE CARVIN MALONE
WORLD ALZHEIMER’S AWARENESS MONTH
SEPTEMBER 1, 2020
Greetings to residents of the Virgin Islands. A special acknowledgement is extended to persons living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, their families and caregivers.
World Alzheimer's Month is coordinated every September by Alzheimer's Disease International (ADI) to raise awareness and challenge the stigma that surrounds dementia. ADI represents 102 International Alzheimer’s Associations of which the Virgin Islands Alzheimer’s Association (VIAA) is a proud member.
In view of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the VIAA has tailored its campaign this year to include and accommodate a programme and events that may happen online/virtually. This is to ensure the safety of the BVI community, especially our vulnerable population.
The international theme for this year’s observance is: ‘Let’s Talk About Dementia’ and as usual, the VIAA creates a relevant sub theme: ‘See The Person Not the Disease’.
The impact of the Alzheimer’s movement is growing within the Virgin Islands but the stigmatisation, misinformation, fear and denial that surround Alzheimer’s and other dementia continue to be a major concern. So, this year “Let’s Talk About Dementia”.
Dementia is a collective name for progressive degenerative brain syndromes which affect memory, thinking, behaviour and emotion. Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia are the most common types of dementia, responsible for up to 90% of cases of dementia.
Symptoms may include:
• loss of memory
• difficulty in finding the right words or understanding what people are saying
• difficulty in performing previously routine tasks
• personality and mood changes
Globally, every three seconds someone in the world develops dementia. In the BVI we do not have any hard data however, we are aware that the numbers of persons with some form of dementia are increasing.
Worldwide, around 50 million people live with dementia, and this number is projected to increase to 152 million by 2050, rising particularly in low and middle-income countries.
The Lancet Commission on dementia, prevention, intervention and care states that 40% of dementia cases could be prevented or delayed by targeting these 12 modifiable risk factors. The 2020 commission update calls for nations and individuals to be ambitious about preventing the disease.
There is a growing body of evidence which supports nine potentially modifiable risk factors for dementia modelled by the 2017 Lancet Commission on dementia prevention, intervention, and care. These include: less education, hypertension, hearing impairment, smoking, obesity, depression, physical inactivity, diabetes, and low social contact. The commission has also added three more risk factors for the disease with newer, convincing evidence. These factors are excessive alcohol consumption, traumatic brain injury, and air pollution. Together, the 12 modifiable risk factors account for around 40% of worldwide dementias, which consequently could theoretically be prevented or delayed.
These modifiable risk factors are areas of focus by the Ministry of Health and Social Development and the Government of the Virgin Islands under the Complete Health Improvement Programme (CHIP) project which is part of Government’s 10-year Non-Communicable Disease Strategy: “Towards a Healthier Virgin Islands”.
CHIP is a community-based educational strategy that takes a holistic health approach. It is designed to PREVENT, ARREST and REVERSE chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart diseases which are identified as some modifiable risk factors for dementia.
As a Territory, we need to decrease the growing numbers of Alzheimer’s/dementia cases. Dementia knows no social, economic or geographical boundaries. Although each person will experience dementia in their own way, eventually those affected are unable to care for themselves and need help with all aspects of daily life. There is currently no cure for most types of dementia, but treatments, advice, and support are available.
So ‘Let’s talk about dementia: End the stigma’. The Ministry of Health and Social Development aims to provide a clear, national focus and attention on Alzheimer's that we have given to other diseases.
We are therefore encouraging the entire community to understand the importance of recognising dementia as a disease and challenging the stigma that surrounds the condition.
I also encourage organisations and individuals everywhere to get involved with the events of the Virgin Islands Alzheimer’s Association.
Follow them on Facebook, contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 544-6514. Get involved by supporting the campaign theme and messages. Remember to discuss dementia with family, friends and colleagues. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
I HEREBY DECLARE SEPTEMBER WORLD ALZHEIMER’S MONTH.