Mike Splaine, Director of State Policy and Advocacy Programs, recently traveled to India to meet with the Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India. Mike shares some of his experiences about the trip below.
It is hard to imagine meeting the challenge of Alzheimer’s disease in a developing country with limited infrastructure. Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India (ARDSI) is doing just that. I had the privilege of joining our colleagues from ARDSI as guest faculty for their annual conference in Kolkata and then in Delhi for the final consultation meeting to design a national Alzheimer strategy for India.
The theme of the meetings was building dementia “solidarity”:
* Solidarity within the Alzheimer community that has slowly developed in India in the past 17 years of scattered local organizations across a sub continent.
* Solidarity between sectors of the community such as researchers, caregivers and hospitals.
* Solidarity to work together with other non-governmental organizations and government to craft a real strategic approach to the challenge of dementia.
India is huge—1.5 billion people (and 500 million cell phones), and diverse culturally, medically, and socially. It is the epicenter of the rapidly growing challenges of Alzheimer’s disease – by 2020 an estimated doubling of persons affected, to over 6 million. This reflects global trends. We estimate that 60% of persons with AD worldwide will live in a developing country by 2020.
I shared some of our U.S. story with state Alzheimer plans and also our tools and experience in building an approach to advocacy and public policy. Though India is a democratic nation like ours, political traditions and conventions are surprisingly different.
The local leaders were hospitable to a fault, friendly and – like Alzheimer advocates I have met all over this country – passionate and committed. That said, every time I got comfortable I was reminded of just how a different a place India is. For example only 2% of persons of 60 have any health insurance – and almost all of these have just hospital coverage and it is derived from their children putting them on a work based family plan!
The final product of these deliberations will be an India AD report to be released next fall, with facts, faces, promising practices and action recommendations. This will be a first from a developing nation. You can read more about ARDSI at http://ardsi.org.