Alzheimer’s Society and Our Future Health
Tell us what the Alzheimer’s Society does
I’m Dr Rich Oakley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Society. We are the UK’s leading dementia charity, and we provide support to people affected by dementia, fight for a more dementia-friendly society, and fund research on dementia prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care.
Why is what you do so important?
There are an estimated 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK, and they face many problems including difficulties accessing support and information, exclusion by their communities, and a lack of disease-modifying treatments. We address these problems by providing support services to people affected by dementia, campaigning for a future where everyone affected by dementia can access the support and care they deserve, promoting social movements like Dementia Friends that make the UK more inclusive for people with dementia, and funding and implementing research on how dementia can be prevented, how we can improve diagnosis and care, and how we can – one day – get to a cure.
What impact could Our Future Health have on preventing, diagnosing and treating dementia?
The number of people with dementia is growing. In the UK, there are projected to be 1 million people living with dementia by 2025, and 1.6 million by 2040. There is currently no treatment available in the UK that can stop or even slow down any kind of dementia, so it’s vital that we understand what can increase people’s risk of dementia to prevent it from occurring in the first place.
Our Future Health’s prospective approach and combination of health, lifestyle and genetic data makes it an ideal tool to address this problem. We’re also excited to see that Our Future Health is recruiting a group of participants who reflect the UK’s diverse population. It’s really important to make sure that health research benefits everyone – especially because, as with many diseases, people of colour and people from working-class backgrounds have historically not been well-represented in research on dementia. Research will one day beat dementia, but we need good data and tools to do good research.
Our Future Health’s integration of different data sources not only makes it an important source of data for researchers now, but as computing power and artificial intelligence develop, will unlock future avenues of research.