Present and Future: Dementia in Latin America

In this week’s Neurology, Parra et al. present a compelling appeal and thoughtful plan for addressing the devastating and growing burden of dementia in Latin America. This report, which has its early roots in a meeting of experts in Santiago during the World Congress of Neurology in 2015, identifies the key challenges and maps a way forward with a public health approach that emphasizes optimizing affordable diagnostics and care over biomarker research given the opportunity cost of such activities. Challenges are identified in the limited epidemiological insights available for Latin America and the dearth of clinical experts in dementia. They identify a need to focus new training programs on front line healthcare workers and to mobilize existing experts to leverage political will to address the rapidly growing burden of dementia in the region. Lessons learned and successful actions taken in Latin American could be important for informing the growing global burden of dementia countries across the economic spectrum.

Gretchen L. Birbeck, MD, MPH

Gretchen L. Birbeck, MD, MPH

Gretchen Birbeck is a neurologist who divides her time between the US and Africa. Her US academic home is the University of Rochester where she is the Rykenboer Professor of Neurology and Research Director for the Strong Epilepsy Center with adjunct appointments in the Center for Human Experimental Therapeutics and the Department of Public Health. Her additional skills in epidemiology, health services research, and tropical medicine are brought to bear during the 6-months annually she spends in Africa where she serves as Director for the Chikankata Epilepsy Care Team in rural Mazabuka, Zambia, an Honorary Lecturer at the University of Zambia and a consultant for the Paediatric Research Ward at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi. Gretchen’s research programs are aimed at identifying opportunities to prevent or ameliorate the medical and social morbidities of common neurologic conditions in low-income, tropical settings with the ultimate goal of developing successful interventions feasible for scale up and broad implementation. She has been recognized as an Ambassador for Epilepsy by the International League against Epilepsy, a Global Health Research Ambassador by the US Paul Rogers Society, a National Outreach Scholar by the WK Kellogg Foundation and a Leader in Medicine by the American Medical Students Association.

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