BENGALURU: In order to ensure preparedness for an expected high incidence of dementia patients in India, Karnataka Health Minister Dinesh Gundu Rao declared dementia a public health priority on Thursday.
On World Alzheimer’s Day, observed on Thursday, September 21, the health minister launched the plan focusing on risk reduction and early diagnosis, which was planned in association with the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) and Dementia India Alliance (DIA). The action plan will focus on creating public awareness, reduce stigma associated with the disease, screening high-risk groups (above 60 years) for dementia, providing home-based caregiver assistance, and promoting brain health and mental health for overall well being. The state will also maintain a registry to study the prevalence of the disease, Dr Pratima Murthy, Director, Nimhans, explained.
Drawing comparisons with China, which is currently facing the issue of a increasing elderly pollution, the health minister said that with declining fertility rate in India, similar issue might arise here as well in the next few decades. It will increase the number of dementia patients too. “Despite India not having a national-level plan to tackle the disorder, the state has taken the initiative to facilitate people with the infrastructure, and financial and emotional support, especially for the caregivers,” the minister added.
More than five lakh individuals in Karnataka are estimated to be currently living with dementia, and symptoms are often pushed under the umbrella of old age, said Dr Radha S Murthy, President, DIA.
Currently, with the Karnataka Brain Health initiative (Ka-Bhi), the diagnosis rate of dementia is around five per cent, which is expected to double in the next three years with the implementation of dementia action plan. Dementia remains incurable, noted Dr Murthy, and highlighted that 90 per cent of patients remain undiagnosed. Hence, the government intervention is necessary.