The Ministry of Public Health will start developing a national dementia action plan next year and cases in Lebanon will reach to 56,000 in 2030
The participants in a regional conference on Alzheimer’s disease held this weekend in Beirut, estimated that dementia cases in Lebanon will reach 56,000 in 2030, revealing that prevalence in Lebanon is currently 9% of the elderly population, while the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) announced that it will start developing a national dementia action plan next year.
During the closing session of the 3rd Middle East and North Africa Regional Conference of Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), held by the Alzheimer’s Association Lebanon at Monroe Hotel, Beirut, Dr. Rabih Chammay, head of the National Mental Health Program in Lebanon, gave an overview of the services and health coverage packages provided by the MOPH for people with mental disorders and Alzheimer’s disease and reminded that a draft law for mental health is currently being discussed in the Parliament.
Dr. Chammay revealed during the Round Table that “a decision has been taken by the MOPH to start developing a national action plan in 2020, in collaboration with World Health Organization (WHO) and different stakeholders in Lebanon such as Alzheimer’s Association Lebanon.” “This action plan, which will de developed with the participation of different actors and players, will cover all aspects related to the care of persons with dementia”, he explained.
Mrs. Nada Fawaz, Head of the Department of Social Welfare at the Ministry of Social Affairs, said that the Ministry will help in developing the national action plan, stressing on the necessity of tackling the social burden of dementia in this plan. She also mentioned the actions and initiatives of the MOSA regarding this social aspect, including training the social workers.
As for Dr. Georges Karam, President of the Alzheimer’s Association Lebanon, he stated that Alzheimer’s and dementia prevalence in Lebanon is currently 9% of the elderly population and underlined the importance of finding solutions in the national action plan for the social burden of dementia. He added that the MOSA had a program that recognized dementia as a handicap, thus providing people suffering from it with a handicap card that ensures some benefits for them.
Dr. Karam reminded that a law is being drafted to protect the elderly of Lebanon from discrimination and neglect. The proposed draft law allows the elderly or a person with symptoms that are caused by aging to have protection and precautionary measures before their health deteriorates and affects their mental capacity.
Mrs. Paola Barbarino, CEO of Alzheimer Disease International (ADI), revealed that “there are 50M people living with dementia today and one new case develops every 3 seconds”. “In Lebanon, we estimated 31,000 cases in 2015 and this number will increase to 56,000 in 2030”, she said. “Considering how many family members and carers are involved, it is easy to see the vast amount of people in Lebanon who are impacted by the disease”, she added.
Mrs. Barbarino considered that “a National Dementia Action plan, properly funded, is the best way to guarantee diagnosis, post-diagnostic support and adequate care pathways for people living with dementia and their carers in any country. It also enables a country to plan for public health campaigns aimed at reducing the risk in their population- and increase awareness whilst combating stigma”. “Training of the workforce is also essential”, according to her.
She concluded: “with its wealth of hospitals, universities and media, Lebanon is in a unique position to be a leader in the Middle East in this topic. I call for Lebanon to follow the example of many other countries around the world and start working on a National Action plan at the earliest opportunity”.