Dementia is the generic term for a group of brain disorders that lead to loss of mental abilities and changes in behaviour. The number of people affected by dementia is on the rise. Not only is dementia set to become the main cause of death in the Netherlands, but it is also becoming the most expensive condition to treat. ZonMw’s Dementia Research Programme is part of the National Dementia Strategy of the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport. The aim of the programme is to generate new insight into causes, risk reduction, diagnostics and therapies for both treating and preventing dementia.
The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport’s National Dementia Strategy is intended to function as a driving force that will ensure dementia research continues and accelerates over the next ten years (2021-2030). ZonMw’s Dementia Research Programme is dedicated to one of the three main themes outlined in the government strategy ‘A world without dementia’. Our ambition is that by 2025 every person with dementia will have a diagnosis and treatment plan that fits their individual needs. We will also gain more insight into the causes of dementia. Greater impact will be generated by stimulating application of the knowledge and innovations we have developed in actual practice.
In the next ten years, over 140 million euros will be invested in research, with a focus on large multidisciplinary partnerships called research consortia. These multidisciplinary consortia will bring together existing top-ranking centres with other research groups and disciplines, healthcare facilities, teaching institutions and representatives of the business community and society at large. The role of the consortia is to ensure the integration of new knowledge about dementia in teaching, research and healthcare. Healthcare fosters research, while research improves healthcare; knowledge is disseminated through teaching and in daily practice. Long-term funding of these research consortia will create a knowledge, research and development infrastructure that is broad-based and long lasting.
The research consortia will be grouped around the themes that form the four focal points of ZonMw’s Dementia Research Programme. Fundamental Research leads to greater understanding of the causes of dementia and the mechanisms that can lead to dementia. This understanding is necessary to enable the treatment of various types of dementia. Risk Reduction is dedicated to developing greater understanding of both the risk factors and protective factors affecting dementia. There is also a need for more knowledge about the effectiveness of interventions on these factors in order to alleviate the suffering of people with dementia and to aid prevention. Diagnostics (and prognostics) deal with determining the predictive biomarkers (indicator substances) for dementia, in addition to developing less invasive methods for diagnosing damage to the brain. The sooner a reliable diagnosis can be made, the sooner a patient can start an effective course of treatment. To enable this, promising innovative treatments that enhance the quality of life of people with dementia and their loved ones must be marketed as quickly as possible. In addition, research will target the causes, mechanisms, diagnostics and personalised care of young people with dementia (under the age of 65).
Finding solutions for people with dementia now and in the future demands an approach in which research, development, improvements to practice and social innovation go hand in hand. That’s why ZonMw is working closely with a number of external parties, such as the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, impact investors, Top sector Life Sciences & Health, health insurance companies, hospitals and care institutions, representatives of the business community and society at large, educational institutions and health funds.
Alzheimer’s Netherlands is one important partner because the experiential knowledge of people with dementia and their informal carers is indispensable for researchers. Thanks to the specific input of experts with experiential knowledge, research is better able to reflect the aspirations, wishes and needs of people with dementia and their loved ones. Moreover, dementia is an overarching theme for ZonMw. A number of themes — fundamental research, mental health, the elderly, palliative care and translational research, among others — will jointly address how to cope with, treat and prevent dementia in order to generate greater impact.
Dementia is an issue that affects the entire world. By cooperating internationally, we can undertake larger-scale research projects, share our data and pool research resources. This will enable real breakthroughs in the near future. ZonMw’s Dementia Research Programme aims to strengthen the prominent international position of Dutch dementia research, while also strengthening international cooperation in dementia research through closer links with programmes in other countries.
Read the programme document to obtain more information about the Dementia Research Programme.