15 Sep 2015
KATE CROSBIE and HEIDI DOUGLASS | email@example.com
The Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation (VFFF) awarded the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA) a $300,000 philanthropic grant over three years to investigate risk and protective factors for dementia. VFFF’s contribution will go towards the salary of a post-doctoral researcher in partnership with Yulgilbar Foundation, whose expert panel provides the necessary scientific assessment.
Established as a family charitable trust in 1962, VFFF is one of the larger family foundations in Australia and has an extensive history of contributing opportunities to benefit and care for Australians. The VFFF grant to The Dementia Momentum® aligns with the foundation’s priority of improving community wellbeing for older Australians through innovation. VFFF was motivated by the focus of The Dementia Momentum® on bringing various studies together toward the common purpose of preventing or delaying the onset of dementia.
Chief Executive Officer of VFFF, Jenny Wheatley, said they are pleased to support The Dementia Momentum® which aligns with VFFF’s funding principles of adopting an innovative approach.
“This initiative has the potential to achieve system change within dementia research,” said Ms Wheatley.
“We are extremely grateful to the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation for this grant,” said CHeBA Co-Director Professor Perminder Sachdev. “Through collaborative philanthropic-research partnerships like this, we are better placed to understand dementia and develop strategies for prevention, which will benefit all Australians.”
A number of new challenges have emerged with the ageing of the Australian population, including increasing dependence, reduced workforce participation and increasing burden of disease. The 2015 Intergenerational Report paints a picture of Australia in 40 years’ time with a population of 39 million, a life expectancy at birth of over 95 years, with about a quarter of the population aged 65 or above. As a result, the dependency ratio will halve to about 2.7 in the next 40 years. The greatest burden on the aged population, and thereby on society, is imposed by brain diseases, in particular dementia.
There are currently approximately 330,000 Australians with dementia, which is set to rise to almost one million by 2050, and 115 million globally. The current direct global economic cost of dementia is $604 billion annually (2010) and is expected to rise at least proportionally with numbers affected, accounting for about 2-3% of the world’s and Australia’s GDP by the middle of the century.
To cope with these projected figures, the aged care workforce will need to triple by 2050 and 500 new beds would be needed every month for the next 40 years. Without substantial investment in research to alter this prediction, the impact of dementia will be socially and economically devastating to all Australians.
To date, however, research into dementia risk and protective factors has been done in isolated geographic areas, on a small scale, largely due to prohibitive costs of data collection. Across the world, researchers are replicating the same information for their locality, but have failed to collaborate in a way that the data can be pooled.
The Dementia Momentum® seeks to change the future of dementia incidence by harnessing international studies into consortia to identify risk and protective factors for the disease.
"The future of dementia research is in being able to bring the scores of international studies together for a common purpose," said Professor Sachdev.
“By pooling data we can create ‘big data sets’ that produce more robust statistical models involving multiple risk factors and more precise estimates than can be reliably obtained from individual cohort studies.”
Ultimately, The Dementia Momentum® seeks to identify, develop and validate strategies to delay, ameliorate or even prevent dementia. By identifying modifiable lifestyle factors to target preventative strategies from an early age, The Dementia Momentum seeks to benefit all Australians by ensuring good cognitive function is sustained in old age, enabling continued and meaningful participation in society.
“Current thinking suggests it takes 25 years of pathology to build up in the brain before symptoms of dementia are apparent,” explained CHeBA Co-Director Professor Henry Brodaty. “If we can halve the rate of that process so that the accumulation of pathology takes over 50 years before symptoms appear, we can actually delay dementia showing up in our lifetime at all."