The federal government has announced $21 million in funding to aid the research of dementia, including a $2.6 million grant to Monash University to detect and prevent dementia using electronic health record data.
The program will be a key part of the university's recently opened National Centre for Healthy Ageing and will use EHRs to help develop methods of monitoring the frequency of dementia and associated risk factors.
The pilot study, which will leverage EHRs and routine administrative data to better monitor dementia frequency and management, will be rolled out across Victoria and nationally if successful.
The $2 million Holistic Approach in Primary Care for Preventing Memory Impairment and Dementia, or HAPPI MIND program, also directed by Monash, will combine face-to-face or telephone meetings with specialists, and will be backed up with tailored mobile phone-based risk reduction support for three years, signaling the increased use of telehealth technology in combatting the disease.
"This is the first time a holistic approach has been taken to both the early identification and the preventative treatment of a disease that is rapidly on the rise," Dr. Johnson George, from the Centre for Medicine Use and Safety at the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, said in a statement.
Overall, 13 projects focused on everything from prevention and tracking of dementia to risk reduction will be covered by the funding, made by the National Health and Medical Research Council's (NHMRC) Boosting Dementia Research Grant scheme.
Grants were also awarded to universities to help translate the data on dementia risk reduction to improve assessments, advice and training for health professionals, policy makers, patients and public, and for improving methods for collecting dementia data and statistics.
Dementia is a leading health burden and a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the country, with an estimated 436,000 Australians living with dementia in 2018—that number is expected to increase to more than a million by 2058.
"Investment into research that focuses on risk reduction and prevention is fundamental if we are to reduce the sharply increasing prevalence of dementia," Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe said in a statement. "These projects will make real progress in understanding dementia and benefit generations of Australians to come."
A report from the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling found even a modest reduction in dementia incidence rates is projected to have significant impacts on society, healthcare and the economy.
The NHMRC has also allocated funding to support partnerships of multidisciplinary, national teams to strengthen the country's national dementia data assets and capabilities to deliver high quality information and analytic methods for dementia research.