Speech from the President: WHO Ministerial Conference on Global Action Against Dementia

March 16, 2015

Geneva, Switzerland

Thank you Dr. Saxena,

Dear colleagues and distinguished guests,

On behalf of the Government of Canada, and the Minister of Health, the Honourable Rona Ambrose, I would like to thank the World Health Organization for hosting this important ministerial conference. The Government of Canada also wishes to recognise British Prime Minister Cameron for his leadership and commitment to use the G7 to press action on dementia.

I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to share my own personal gratitude for the Government of France and Dr. Yves Levy, from l’Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale for having partnered with us in hosting the Canada-France Dementia Legacy Event last September.

The burden of dementia has been well documented and clearly outlined in various presentations at this conference and the Legacy Events that took place over the course of the past year.

It is well understood that there are a number of hurdles that still need to be overcome. In the medium term, they include the creation of opportunities for international data sharing and the development of clinical research networks; enhanced collaboration towards disease diagnosis; and the acceleration of international research partnerships.

In the long term, more is needed to encourage patient centered research and to create opportunities for reducing the administrative and regulatory burden of clinical trials.

From a Canadian perspective, however, the challenge is even more prominent because of our jurisdictional structure. In effect, we have 13 provincial and territorial health care systems, each of which is responsible for the treatment and care of its own population. A challenge probably similar to many countries present here today.

While these challenges are steep, they are not insurmountable. The unifying factors that bring our multiple jurisdictions together, and fall under the federal mandate, are surveillance and monitoring, prevention and research. And we have made significant progress on each of these fronts.

On the research front, our efforts have been focused on supporting partnerships that will create the knowledge needed to improve prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and standards of care for people living with dementia.

For many years now, we have been partnering internationally to establish common diagnostic standards, share animal models, broaden the scope of clinical trials and develop early diagnostic approaches.

Within our borders, we have established the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging or C-C-N-A, a pan-Canadian initiative designed to bring together researchers from coast to coast to generate ideas that will transform the quality of life and quality of services for those living with, or affected by, neurodegenerative diseases.

In order to address the administrative burden and help tackle the regulatory challenges linked to clinical trials, we recently created the Canadian Clinical Trials Coordinating Centre. This initiative will help streamline processes for companies and researchers wanting to conduct trials, and ultimately resulting in better medical treatments.

In order to tackle the long term issues, our Government understood that our success depends on our ability to learn from others. It understood the need to reinforce the research enterprise with the fundamental principle that evidence-informed health innovations need to center around a personalized care experience by connecting providers, patients and medical information. These principles are at the heart of the mandate of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and its Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research.

Supporting Canadians in healthy aging is an important part of our public health agenda. Canada's Healthy Living Program invests in physical activity, healthy eating, reducing tobacco use, and in creating conditions in our communities that support healthy behaviours.

We work with partners in the public and private sectors to expand the reach and impact of our programs and to promote innovation. The work we are doing with the Alzheimer Society of Canada to establish Dementia Friends Canada, based on the models used in Japan and the UK, will raise awareness, provide information and training so that businesses and communities are equipped to better support those with dementia. It is by integrating a focus on dementia into our public health objectives that we will make a difference.

We have made great progress but the work is not complete.  We need to continue building on these and other similar endeavours and this Ministerial Event is helping us do just that.

Thank you.

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