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Politics, party lines and prioritizing dementia: highlights from 2017

Melody Paton Borchardt

From a snap election and royal engagement to twitter fights between global leaders and some rather intense eyebrow trends (get in on the fun), 2017 has been an eventful year!

At Alzheimer’s Research UK, we are celebrating what has been a busy, challenging and successful year. This has been particularly true for our policy and public affairs efforts as the past twelve months presented many opportunities for lawmakers to make dementia research a priority. With your help, we’ve gained ground. We’re taking a look back at the work we accomplished together in 2017.

We know 2018 will bring more opportunities to create a world where people are free from the fear, harm and heartbreak of dementia, and we’ll need your help to make it happen. If you haven’t already joined our team of Campaigners, please consider signing up.

2017 Success Stories

Growing the team

Our force of Campaigners more than doubled! There are now 1,300 volunteers helping us to reach government with our message. And we are so grateful for each one of you. We couldn’t make the important progress we’ve made this year without your help.

Navigating a year of political change

Our team of Campaigners was put to the test this year as Article 50 was triggered in March and a general election held in June. Campaigners contacted their MPs to let them know about five areas that will be critical to protect dementia research throughout and beyond Brexit negotiations: increased funding, strengthening research networks, attracting and retaining the best people, regulation of research and protecting patients’ access to new treatments. We were encouraged to see a commitment to invest in dementia research in the Conservatives’ manifesto and are now working to hold them to account on this promise.

Integrating dementia into NHS Health Checks

This spring, we carried out a joint pilot project to deliver dementia risk reduction advice to 40-64 year olds during their NHS Health Check focusing on the message, ‘what is good for your heart is good for your brain’. Encouragingly, 75% of those who remembered the dementia component of the check-up were motivated to make a positive lifestyle change. We are calling now for this beneficial messaging to become mandatory in all NHS Health Checks.

Understanding the current state of dementia in the UK

In the autumn, we launched our Dementia Hotspots Map that revealed the areas of the UK most impacted by the condition. We have been able to use this tool to engage MPs and the public with our work. This has been particularly important as new data released in November confirmed that dementia now is the leading cause of death across the UK. We believe that knowledge is power and hope that this better understanding of the current state of dementia will help us to communicate with government at all levels more effectively.

Ongoing work: increasing research funding for dementia

With a focus on the Industrial Strategy for the UK, Alzheimer’s Research UK sees several opportunities for further investment in dementia research. Among those opportunities, we would like to see part of the additional £7bn in research and development earmarked for dementia research. Along with help from our Campaigners, we’re asking the government to increase the annual budget for dementia research to a minimum of £132 by 2022.

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