This is according to Minister for Health and Social Development, Hon Carvin Malone (AL) in a statement in observance of World Alzheimer's Awareness Month.
The international theme for this year’s observance is: ‘Let’s Talk About Dementia’. The Virgin Islands Alzheimer’s Association (VIAA) has created a sub theme: ‘See The Person Not the Disease’.
“Globally, every three seconds someone in the world develops dementia. In the BVI we do not have any hard data however, we are aware that the numbers of persons with some form of dementia are increasing,” Hon Malone stated on September 1, 2020.
The Health Minister added there is a growing body of evidence which supports nine potentially modifiable risk factors for dementia modelled by the 2017 Lancet Commission on dementia prevention, intervention, and care.
These include: less education, hypertension, hearing impairment, smoking, obesity, depression, physical inactivity, diabetes, and low social contact.
The commission, Hon Malone continued, has also added three more risk factors for the disease with newer, convincing evidence. These factors are excessive alcohol consumption, traumatic brain injury, and air pollution. Together, the 12 modifiable risk factors account for around 40% of worldwide dementias, which consequently could theoretically be prevented or delayed.
These modifiable risk factors, he said, are areas of focus by the Ministry of Health and Social Development and the Government of the Virgin Islands under the Complete Health Improvement Programme (CHIP) project which is part of Government’s 10-year Non-Communicable Disease Strategy: “Towards a Healthier Virgin Islands”.
CHIP is a community-based educational strategy that takes a holistic health approach. It is designed to PREVENT, ARREST and REVERSE chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart diseases which are identified as some modifiable risk factors for dementia.
“As a Territory, we need to decrease the growing numbers of Alzheimer’s/dementia cases. Dementia knows no social, economic or geographical boundaries. Although each person will experience dementia in their own way, eventually those affected are unable to care for themselves and need help with all aspects of daily life,” Hon Malone noted.
The Health Minister also noted that the impact of the Alzheimer’s movement is growing within the Virgin Islands but the stigmatisation, misinformation, fear and denial that surround Alzheimer’s and other dementia continue to be a major concern.
“So, this year “Let’s Talk About Dementia”.
Dementia is a collective name for progressive degenerative brain syndromes which affect memory, thinking, behaviour and emotion. Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia are the most common types of dementia, responsible for up to 90% of cases of dementia.
Symptoms may include loss of memory, difficulty in finding the right words or understanding what people are saying, difficulty in performing previously routine tasks, personality and mood changes.
Worldwide, around 50 million people live with dementia, and this number is projected to increase to 152 million by 2050, rising particularly in low and middle-income countries.
There is currently no cure for most types of dementia, but treatments, advice, and support are available.
In view of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the VIAA has tailored its campaign this year to include and accommodate a programme and events that may happen online/virtually. This is to ensure the safety of the VI community, especially its vulnerable population.
Hon Malone encouraged organisations and individuals to get involved with the events of the Virgin Islands Alzheimer’s Association.