The Blackfriars Consensus, published by the UK Health Forum and Public Health England, explores the potential for incorporation of dementia risk reduction into current approaches for non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
Download the Blackfriars Consensus on promoting brain health
Some components of dementia now appear to share common causal links with other NCDs. However, despite the apparent and emerging associations, current NCD policies and prevention strategies focusing on risk factors do not incorporate their added potential to brain health, and the possibility of reduction for dementia has been largely absent from many dementia policies. Furthermore, clear messages about risks for dementia resulting from known factors such as head injury and alcohol receive scant attention.
The Blackfriars Consensus asserts that given the emerging evidence that some types of dementia and many NCDs appear to share common risk and protective factors, future primary prevention policies for NCDs could be greatly strengthened if framed within a broad approach to health and wellbeing that explicitly supports the promotion of good brain health throughout life. Such an approach could combine policies and interventions which tackle the known risk factors for NCDs with those which promote the range of factors that are increasingly being shown to be protective against dementia.
It also states that adopting an integrated health and wellbeing approach to NCD prevention, which is inclusive of the emerging opportunities for dementia risk reduction, would not cause any harm. Indeed this may offer an opportunity to strengthen and expand existing prevention programmes and research in these areas with potential benefits to both conditions and beyond.
The Consensus stresses that it is important to communicate more clearly the emerging evidence about dementia risks, protective factors and preventive actions to the public and relevant health and care professionals and policy makers. Further population-based work on the impact of dementia awareness and risk messaging is important in order to assess its contribution to perceptions of stigma and fear, as well as potential to change behaviour at the individual level. This will influence the balance of preventive strategies.
It also states that the rapidly evolving potential for dementia prevention and risk reduction should be incorporated into the training and development of the wider public health, health care and social care workforces.