Announced research reflects growing need

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It didn’t get a whole lot of press last week, but oddly enough, initiatives with far-reaching implications don’t always. So anything of the nature is worth reviewing.

Canada’s federal government announced last Thursday it will be spending more than $9 million toward research projects studying autism and Alzheimer’s disease, with the aim of finding new treatments and means of prevention.

In making the announcement, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made reference to the way such conditions touch many people – that “there’s hardly a Canadian who does not know someone affected by neurological illness.”

Most Canadians will agree. Among the younger population, whether the incidence of autism is higher than years ago isn’t certain, but awareness is, along with determination to ensure those affected get the support needed.

With seniors, Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia have been identified as conditions that will be more common with a rapidly aging demographic in this country.

The federal funds announced by the prime minister are part of a public-private partnership that involves the Brain Canada Foundation, the Azrieli Foundation and the Chagnon family. Researchers at McGill University, the University of Toronto, McMaster University and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health will lead the projects.

This is a wise investment for Canada in many ways. Any advances in treating dementia – finding ways to slow progression, or identify it early in its onset and treat it – will improve the quality of life of seniors. With success, the research will allow people to stay longer where they want to be: in their homes, with family. And of course the implications for health care savings would be enormous.

There’s another aspect that goes with any initiative involving research and development. Other nations experience the same health dilemmas as Canada. The progress made in this research will be exportable and welcomed by other countries.

Organizations: Brain Canada Foundation, Azrieli Foundation, McGill University University of Toronto McMaster University Centre for Addiction

Geographic location: Canada

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