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Jordanian entrepreneur takes initiative as shadow of dementia silently grows

By Maram Kayed - Mar 07,2019 - Last updated at Mar 07,2019

Mountaineers Mostafa Salameh and Farah Raed Abu Baker raise the Jordan Alzheimer’s Association banner on top of Mount Kilimanjaro in April 2017 (Photo courtesy of the JAA)

AMMAN — After witnessing his favourite aunt suffer from frontotemporal dementia for 11 years, gradually losing her strength and memory in the process, Hamza Nouri decided to establish the Jordan Alzheimer Association (JAA), the first organisation of its kind in Jordan.

“It was registered as an official association in September of 2018, when I was 21, although I had the idea for it ever since I was 15,” he told The Jordan Times over the phone.

The World Health Organisation (WHO), in 2017, said that Alzheimer’s and dementia caused the deaths of more than 1,000 people in Jordan, some 6 per cent of all of the Kingdom deaths that year.

The age-adjusted death rate, in respect to dementia-related cases, is 38.47 per 100,000 of the population, according to the latest WHO report, which ranked Jordan in 14th place worldwide.

People usually associate Alzheimer’s with the “common signs” of old age, when it is actually a disease that causes a serious medical condition; dementia, said Nouri.

WHO now cites dementia as the seventh leading cause of death around the world, with approximately 50 million people who are diagnosed with some form of the disease.

According to a JAA report, a copy of which was sent to The Jordan Times, there is no database or collection method for dementia statistics in Jordan.

The report interprets the lack of statistics as an indicator that the actual scale of the dementia problem is not fully recognised.

The association hopes to tackle this issue with something it dubs “The Five Bs”.

The Five Bs the JAA talks about are “better training, better infrastructure and support systems, better educational programmes, better public policies and governmental support and better participation of Alzheimer-diagnosed patients in research programmes”.

However, “the lack of financial support” for awareness programmes and specialised day-care centres, is still a major challenge that the JAA faces in Jordan, Nouri highlighted.

It remains a problem to be tackled globally as well, according to the WHO.

The global treatment cost of dementia is estimated by the WHO at $818 billion annually, more than 1 per cent of the world’s combined gross domestic product.

As the world population ages, the number of people living with dementia is expected to triple from 50 million to 152 million by 2050, the WHO warned in its 2017 report.

By 2030, the WHO expects dementia costs to more than double, at around $2 trillion, the report points out.

These costs “could undermine social and economic development and overwhelm health and social services, including long-term care systems”, the WHO report stated.

In Jordan, a 2017 study by the Institute for Health and Metric Evaluation ranked Alzheimer’s as the sixth most common cause of death, marking a 125.9 per cent increase from the latest 2006-2007 study, conducted 10 years earlier.

“It may be possible to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s in a population by means of education and spreading awareness on the important risk factors,” Nouri explained.

To help raise awareness of these factors, the JAA uses its social media platform to publish information about the illness.

The JAA also partners with government institutions, civil society organisations and NGOs, both locally and internationally, to contribute to building a more Alzheimer-informed society, Nouri concluded.

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