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On World Alzheimer’s Day, Let’s Work to Eliminate Stigma about Dementia

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By Husseini K. Manji, MD, Global Head, Neuroscience Therapeutic Area, Janssen Research & Development, LLC

September is World Alzheimer’s Month, and today is World Alzheimer’s Day – the culmination of a coordinated international effort to raise awareness and challenge the stigma around dementia.

The 2012 World Alzheimer Report released today focuses on the global impact of stigma associated with dementia, including a review of current knowledge in the area and results of a global survey on stigma.  Not surprisingly, the stigma and associated social exclusion experienced by people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers is one of the disease’s most devastating effects.  According to the report, 40 percent of people with dementia say they have been avoided or treated differently because of their diagnosis and are not included in everyday life.   Statistics like this are all the more meaningful because most of us have been personally affected by Alzheimer’s in our own families, or know someone who has.

More than 36 million people worldwide are living with dementia and by 2030, this number will have nearly doubled to 66 million. These numbers are staggering and the need is greater than ever for new solutions for patients and their loved ones.  But there is also reason to hope.  Today, we have a greater understanding of Alzheimer’s disease, and are learning more about ways to predict and potentially slow its progress.  Advances will come through increased collaboration between scientists from industry, government and academia. I am optimistic that we will see therapeutics in our lifetime that will make a real difference in this devastating disease, and at Janssen, we are committed to putting our resources to work in this area of exceptionally high unmet medical need.

But today, World Alzheimer’s Day provides an opportunity to think about and offer support to people we know who are in the moment dealing with this disease.  During this month, Alzheimer Association chapters across the world have focused activities on reducing the stigma associated with dementia .  To find out more about events in your community, visit the World Alzheimer’s Day website here.

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