Preventative health is a key element of national strategic health planning. The importance of preventing chronic physical conditions, such as heart disease, is well recognised, yet the role of prevention in one of our greatest emerging health challenges—increasing rates of dementia—remains poorly explored.
There is increasing acknowledgement of the need to place prevention and early intervention clearly on the Australian health agenda, as demonstrated by the government’s response to the National Preventative Health Taskforce and the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission’s reports. As part of this agenda, there is a need to recognise dementia as a chronic disease whose impact can be lessened by a preventative health approach. The government’s commitment to refocusing the health system towards the prevention of chronic illnesses, including the establishment of a National Health Promotion and Prevention Agency, is seen as an opportunity to address this.
This paper sets out the case for the establishment of a National Dementia Preventative Health Strategy. With the prevalence of dementia projected to reach around one million by 2050 and the cost of dementia care set to outstrip any other health condition, it is timely that dementia takes its place in national preventative health planning.
It is proposed that the framework for a National Dementia Preventative Health Strategy should be guided by eight principles that are in accord with the national Chronic Disease Strategy, namely:
Adopt a population health approach to dementia
Invest in research to investigate prevention, early intervention and treatment of dementia
Implement dementia risk reduction strategies
Build community capacity to optimise self-management of risk factors
Provide effective care
Facilitate integrated multi-disciplinary care across services, settings and sectors