HHS Secretary Burwell Remarks at World Health Assembly Ministerial Panel on Dementia

HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell
World Health Assembly Ministerial Panel on Dementia

Geneva, Switzerland
May 23, 2016

“We welcome any opportunity to collaborate on innovative care and services models and we will continue to support international efforts to fight dementia through the work of the G7 and WHO.”

AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY

Introduction

I want to start by thanking our host, Switzerland and Federal Councillor Alain Berset. I also want to recognize our co-sponsors, Canada, Monaco, Panama, the United Kingdom, and Zambia.
One of the most devastating aspects of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias is how these diseases make patients and their families feel isolated. But your presence here today proves they’re not alone.
Dementia has touched many of our communities. Today in the United States, more than 5 million people suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. In fact, Alzheimer’s is our sixth-leading cause of death.

And as our population ages, the number of people with this devastating condition could more than double by 2050.

Our Strategy

That’s why the United States is committed to confronting dementia and reducing the burden on patients and their families, by taking three important steps:

First, we’re pushing forward the frontiers of research into dementia. Our National Institutes of Health supports ongoing research on aging. Thanks to this support, researchers have developed instruments to identify cognitive decline. And through a new program, NIH, pharmaceutical companies and nonprofits are evaluating biomarkers and validating biological targets key to the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. NIH is contributing $68 million over five years to this effort.

Second, we’re supporting patients. Just last year, our Department proposed raising the quality and safety requirements for more than 15,000 nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities across the country – part of an effort to help long-term care facilities train nurse aides in dementia management and abuse prevention.

Third, we’re supporting caregivers. At Alzheimers.gov, people who are caring for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias can find consumer-friendly information and resources provided by our Department.

But we know that we need to keep our focus on improving this work. That’s why, in collaboration with stakeholders and with the support of the President and the United States Congress, we have developed a National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease.

This year’s update to the Plan includes priority actions focused on care and services with measures like improved monitoring of nursing home quality. It also includes increased research on quality dementia care, and expanded grants that encourage “dementia-friendly communities.”

Our Work Across Borders

Some of our greatest lessons come from our international partners and their work on dementia. We welcome any opportunity to collaborate on innovative care and services models, and we will continue to support international efforts to fight dementia through the work of the G7 and WHO.

By pushing forward the frontiers of research, by giving patients and caregivers the support they need, and with the WHO’s leadership of the Global Action Against Dementia, we can lift this burden of dementia from families across all of our nations.