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Heinz Becker MEP urges political action against Alzheimer’s disease

Submitted by on 21 Nov 2017 – 17:45

We must not accept Alzheimer’s disease as a normal part of ageing. Heinz Becker MEP says national governments should continue building a “dementia-friendly” Europe by ending stigma, discrimination and isolation of patients and carers, and adapting and developing a responsive and inclusive environment.

Approximately 6.4 million people are living with dementia in the European Union and every year 1.4 million Europeans develop some form of dementia. These numbers are expected to rise quickly in the next four decades. Alzheimer’s disease, a special form of dementia, is one of the most pressing public health challenges in Europe. A majority of European citizens will have to cope with this disease during their lifetime, either as patient or as carer in their families, as caregivers and as the whole society. We will all be deeply affected by this disease. Hence, this disease comes with substantial social and economic implications for every European.

First of all, we must not forget those of us who are dealing with this disease every day. Alzheimer’s disease often leads to stigma, discrimination and isolation. It is of utmost importance to protect their human rights as patients and carers and to raise awareness in society as a whole. In particular, we have to focus on the elderly, who are highly endangered to develop some form of dementia as the major cause of disability and dependency. We must not accept Alzheimer’s disease as a normal part of ageing!

Never miss the present chances

In order to consequently combat Alzheimer’s impacts on our society and at the same time to support the new medical and pharmaceutical scientific developments, we have to focus on the priorities and we have to be fast.

Recent promising studies presented at the ICPS Alzheimer Europe Roundtable in Brussels have shown that improved cardiovascular conditions and higher education levels can lead to a reduction in national dementia cases. Furthermore, there is great potential that biomarker-techniques could lead to early detection from 40 years on.

This means prevention and early diagnosis are the main keys. Thanks to intense scientific research on Alzheimer’s disease, there is a high probability that we will be able to combat Alzheimer Diseases more efficiently in future.

Governments of EU-member states have high responsibilities

We need public campaigns run by the governments of all EU member states – as it is not the EU’s but national legislative competence – not only to raise awareness about the disease, but also to foster research developments and to consequently establish best practice in treatment by focused risk reduction, early diagnosis as well as timely intervention.

It is our national governments’ responsibility to continue building a “dementia-friendly” Europe by ending stigma, discrimination and isolation of patients and carers, and adapting and developing a responsive and inclusive environment.

To reach this goal on a European level, all European institutions, especially the European Commission and European Parliament, have to hold national governments accountable and increase the pressure on all those among the EU 28 who have not yet created a National Alzheimer Strategy.

As next steps in terms of policy action on European level, I want to follow up two specific ones:

1. An “Alzheimer EU-Coordinator” should be installed to synchronise the various activities in the different DGs of the European Commission, reaching from Health to Research, Innovation and Care.

2. An EU-framework should be built in order to pool the expertise and efforts in Europe and to strategise on how to provide the best and most cost-effective services that adequately meet the needs of individuals and families who suffer in Europe.

Now is the time to act.

Combating Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia has to become a top priority of the European Union by putting further emphasis on cooperation within all member states in areas of research, care and prevention.

Fully supporting Alzheimer Europe on their ambitious way, I am absolutely determined to set next steps still in 2017 to follow up our mutual goals together with other members over all political groups in the European Parliament.