The Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI), the Alzheimer’s Association, and Alzheimer’s Society (UK) aim to support emerging leaders in brain health, aging, and dementia by funding small-scale pilot projects, activities, and/or studies to advance skills, knowledge, activities, and general efforts to delay, prevent and/or mitigate the impact of dementia. The goal of these awards is to both support leadership development of the awardee and to advance pilot projects that improve outcomes in brain health. The program prioritizes activities that demonstrate the potential to evolve into larger regional projects, especially those that use an evidence-based approach to identify, direct change and/or improve care for those with dementia.
Dementia is a pressing global health issue. These pilot projects are important as a first step to advance scientific knowledge in the effort to delay or prevent Alzheimer’s and other dementia, as well as to improve care and quality of life for persons living with the disease.
Since the program was established in 2017, 88 pilots across 28 countries and administrative regions — including Argentina, Belgium, Bermuda, Botswana, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Denmark, Egypt, France, Greece, Hong Kong, Jordan, Ireland, Israel, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, Romania, South Africa, Spain, Taiwan, Turkey, UK (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales), USA — have been awarded a total of $2.2 million.
Funded pilot projects range from advocacy to systems change to applied research and are addressing challenges with access to care, stigma, social determinants of brain health, education, and more.
Pilot awardees have secured a total of $27.2 million in funding, with $1.7 million in leveraged funding directly expanding and supporting their pilots. Early indicators of impact and success also include 32 publications in leading journals, 46 presentations at 30 distinct conferences, with 10 pilots receiving media coverage from 25 diverse media outlets.
Awareness and Knowledge of Dementia Amongst Speech and Language Therapists
In Brazil, awareness and knowledge of language difficulties in dementia is limited. As a result, patients and families may not learn effective strategies to improve communication, function, and quality of life. Barbara Costa Beber believes the country’s 40,000 speech and language therapists (SLTs) could be key to improving dementia communication strategies if they are prepared to intervene.
“If we improve communication among people with dementia and their loved ones, we can improve their quality of life,” says Costa Beber.
Statistical Learning to Track Dementia in Population Based Surveys
Using big global data sets and machine learning, Laurent Cleret de Langavant is working to track dementia and its causes. The Health and Retirement Study (HRS) family is a long-term worldwide group of surveys with similar comprehensive information about health, cognition, economics, and more. However, their data has been underused in the field of dementia. Cleret de Langavant’s pilot project aims to use these data to identify persons at high risk of dementia in resource-poor areas.
“Our method is capable of identifying people with high likelihood of dementia even in the absence of cognitive assessment,” said Cleret de Langavant.
The Magdalena Project: Erasing Stigma Around Aging and Dementia
Can the arts create understanding for humanity? Gabri Christa thinks so. As part of her pilot project, she planned a film festival—Moving Body–Moving Image Festival— focused on aging, dementia and dance. When Covid-19 hit, she was forced to reconfigure the festival from in-person to an online event, creating an opportunity to come together as a global community.
“Canceling was never an option for me,” said Christa. “I told my team, ‘We are not canceling, we will figure it out.’”
In the end, the festival was a big success. While she expected 200 people to attend a live event, the virtual event drew an audience of more than 5,000 from 61 countries worldwide in just over 48 hours.