The Davos Alzheimer’s Collaborative (DAC) has partnered with the Aga Khan University’s Brain & Mind Institute (BMI), to launch a two-part research programme for dementia. This collaboration aims to address the lack of diversity in dementia research, improve care, and increase access to innovative treatments across Africa.
According to the World Health Organization, two-thirds of the world’s population over 60 years old will live in low- and middle-income countries by 2050. Kenya’s aging population is expected to double in the next three decades, with a 316% increase in people living with dementia by 2050, as reported by Strengthening Responses to Dementia in Developing Countries (STRIDE) Kenya.
Moreover, dementia research has been predominantly focused on Global North societies, resulting in a severe lack of scientific information about dementia in the Global South.
To address these pressing needs and research gaps, BMI has joined forces with DAC to tackle brain aging and dementia in Kenya. In this collaboration, BMI aims to explore the various factors influencing brain aging and dementia from a comprehensive perspective that includes ecological, biological, psychological, and social elements. BMI’s goal is to take a holistic approach to tackle dementia, especially when it occurs alongside other diseases, by promoting brain health resilience throughout a person’s life. Additionally, the Institute will focus on understanding and addressing the disparities in brain aging that affect different individuals.
“DAC is committed to working with researchers, communities, and healthcare systems around the world to advance understanding of Alzheimer’s Disease among diverse populations. We are delighted to partner with the Brain Mind Institute at the Aga Khan University to realize this mission,” said Dr. Vaibhav Narayan, Davos Alzheimer’s Collaborative Executive Vice President and Head of Strategy and Innovation.
The collaborative DAC-BMI projects will focus on understanding and preventing dementia in Kenya. The first phase will utilize rapid ethnographic approaches to explore contextual meanings, attitudes, and perceptions around dementia through qualitative interviews and focus group discussions.
“The BMI-DAC partnership addresses the growing challenge of dementia, which we will all be increasingly facing in the near future, especially in LMICs. By acting now, especially in Africa where the population is young (median age of 20 years), we have the opportunity to avert the Alzheimer’s pandemic,” said Prof Zul Merali, Founding Director, BMI.
In the second phase of the project, researchers will work closely with neurologists at Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi to characterize a large cohort of people living with dementia alongside a parallel group of typically aging Kenyan adults.
“The partnership we are starting here is just the beginning of our work to support the development of a life course approach to brain health and healthy aging. Our goal is to create the required infrastructure for reducing risks, conducting research, and developing personalized treatments for neurological health. Precision medicine in neuroscience is our vision, and this collaboration marks just the start of our efforts,” said Drew Holzapfel, Davos Alzheimer’s Collaborative Chief Operating Officer.
Dr Carl Amrhein, Provost, and Vice President, Academic at the Aga Khan University expressed his belief that these research efforts will lead to significant improvements in dementia research, education, outreach, and healthcare services at BMI, benefiting the communities they serve, remarking “I expect that these efforts will also lead to the further expansion and growth of the BMI-DAC partnership and will ultimately result in vast improvements in the lives of those living with this debilitating condition in the communities we serve.”