First WHO Ministerial Conference on Global Action Against Dementia
March 17, 2015
My name is Pamela Hamamoto, and I am the U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN here in Geneva. I would like to deliver the following remarks from the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Sylvia Mathews Burwell:
Fellow Ministers of Health, distinguished leaders, and my esteemed colleagues:
I am honored to be a part of the first World Health Organization Conference on Global Action Against Dementia, although I wish I could have joined you in person today.
I’d like to thank Secretary Hunt and the UK for their leadership on the global fight against dementia. They have worked hard to highlight an issue that affects hundreds of millions of people, but doesn’t often get wide political attention. We are determined to change that.
Here in the United States, we are deeply committed to understanding and combatting dementia and have been working tirelessly to make progress for those living with Alzheimer’s and related dementias. Our delegation today is made up of policy and research leaders, including Dr. Linda Elam, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Disability, Aging and Long-Term Care Policy, and Dr. Richard Hodes, Director of the U.S. National Institute on Aging.
Dementia is an illness like no other. It robs us of our memories and reason, and leaves our families to pick up the pieces. It touches the lives of families across the globe, and as we live longer, it is a struggle that becomes more common.
No one can win the fight against this devastating illness alone.
That is why this conference and WHO’s work on this issue is so important. It will expand the reach of the Global Action Against Dementia to countries beyond the G-7 and connect it with efforts against other communicable and non-communicable diseases.
Our best hope for prevention and a cure is collaboration. We must work as a community—sharing our successes in research and care, and learning from each other how to best support our citizens struggling with this this disease, as well as the families supporting them.
For our part, our National Alzheimer’s Project Act sets forth national goals to treat and prevent the disease by 2025 and establishes a national plan and a national advisory council on dementia to oversee this effort.
We have also invested a significant amount for Alzheimer’s research, and will continue to do so in the future.
This conference is an important step towards strengthening our international efforts, bolstering collaboration, and inspiring each other to deliver for the people we serve. Together, we will move closer to our goal of eradicating Alzheimer’s and related dementias.
I join all those affected, including families and caregivers in thanking you all for your commitment to this important cause.
On a personal note, I would like to reflect on the last two days of meetings and its clear sense of shared commitment to this important health issue. We are told that more than 400 delegates from more than 80 countries and dozens of other stakeholders have come together here on dementia, and to discuss what we can do to accelerate prevention, treatment and care for the millions of people around the world and their families struggling with this challenge. We believe this ought to be a global health priority and therefore that WHO should take up the challenge of leadership and coordination in this area.
The Call to Action we will adopt later today encompasses our collective commitment and I know the United States looks forward to working with WHO and all interested partners in finding practical and pragmatic ways to take the work forward. In particular, we want to look for ways to accelerate technical collaboration that will yield the best results for people, and that recognize the fundamentally multi-sectoral approach that is required for the best results and for sustainability.