Increasing momentum in big data research for dementia prevention

Increasing momentum in big data research for dementia prevention
Increasing momentum in big data research for dementia prevention

One of the biggest global public health challenges in human history is that of dementia.  The idea that we can defeat dementia is gripping the entire world, and the answer may be in big data research led by the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA) at the University of New South Wales.

There are an unprecedented number of studies around the world that are examining modifiable risk factors for the different types of dementia and designing strategies to delay the onset of dementia or prevent it altogether.  Researchers at CHeBA wish to harness this momentum and lead an international consortium of studies to make a big impact on dementia research.

“Research is an international enterprise and dementia affects all communities.  The future of dementia research is in being able to bring the scores of international studies together for a common purpose,” says Professor Perminder Sachdev, Co-Director of CHeBA. 

“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.”

Having already led a number of international consortia, Professor Sachdev says CHeBA is in an excellent position to make a world-wide difference to prevention, earlier diagnosis, and earlier and more effective interventions.

The gathering, pooling and analysing of big data sets from across the world requires significant resources.  To achieve this, CHeBA today launches The Dementia Momentum, a movement to bring researchers and the community together to change the future of dementia in this country and around the world.

Driving The Dementia Momentum is spokesman Mr Richard Grellman AM, Chairman of Genworth Mortgage Insurance Ltd, IPH Ltd and AMP Foundation, whose wife Suellen was diagnosed some 4 years ago with advanced young onset Alzheimer’s disease and has now been in a care facility for almost a year. 

“My wife Suellen is very much in need of high levels of personalised care and support,” Mr Grellman said.

“Our children, her family, our close friends and I have had to learn to walk this journey with Suellen, all sharing the desolate sense of helplessness, frustration and sadness that comes with knowing that there is currently no known cure.  Suellen has just turned 64,” he said.

“Advancing the understanding of causes, preventative measures, treatment and care can start the process of confronting this terrible disease and hopefully reduce the number of families that have to endure what Suellen and we are experiencing.”

CHeBA Co-Director Professor Henry Brodaty, who was Suellen’s specialist physician, commends Mr Grellman for his unwavering and relentless support of CHeBA’s campaign to change the future of dementia incidence. 

According to Professor Brodaty, effectively tackling known risk factors for dementia could prevent up to one-fifth of new cases by 2025. 

“The World Dementia Council’s recent statement calling on governments to adopt a risk reduction approach in public health policies and campaigns, and to increase investment for population-level research into dementia risk reduction is encouraging,” he said.

“It aligns completely with our belief that dementia is at least partially preventable through strategies that will push back its onset.  Dementia prevention is a major focus of research at CHeBA.”

The Dementia Momentum, being officially launched at a corporate event hosted by supporters KPMG on the 25th of March 2015, seeks to engage with the business community to raise awareness and reduce prejudice about this disease.

“This important social initiative is a bold attempt to bring the right researchers and community donors together to materially increase the pace of clear, clever and relevant work in confronting this disease,” said Mr Grellman.

“Henry, Perminder and the team at CHeBA are globally recognised and best of breed,” he added. 

The Momentum’s first Platinum members, Mr Phillip Cave AM and Ms Judy Harris, who have contributed $100,000 to the Fund, firmly endorsed the initiative and encouraged more individuals and corporations to get on board in support.

Other founding members of The Dementia Momentum include The Roth Charitable Foundation, The AMP Foundation and Senior Partner of Minter Ellison, Ms Pamela Madafiglio.  KPMG, ARIA Restaurant and HWL Ebsworth have pledged in-kind support and Friends of The Dementia Momentum include Watson Mangioni Lawyers Pty Limited, BridgeClimb founder Mr Paul Cave AM, senior non-executive Director Mr Graeme Pettigrew, Dr Owen Hellyer and JT Consultancy.

The number of dementia sufferers is increasing rapidly, with figures estimated to rise to 135 million worldwide and to almost 1 million in Australia, at an economic cost of 2-3% of the GDP by 2050.  At projected rates, the aged care workforce in Australia will need to triple by 2050 and 500 new beds for dementia-related care will be needed per month for the next 40 years.


The Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing welcomes corporate and individual interest in The Dementia Momentum. To become a Member, an in-kind supporter or Friend of The Dementia Momentum, please email or call (02) 9382 3398.

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