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Biggest dementia recruitment and research drive starts in Tasmania

The University of Tasmania’s Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre is undertaking the biggest study into dementia, aiming to recruit 10,000 people from Tasmania to participate in the project.

This project will be the biggest in the world for dementia research and will be focusing on Tasmanian participants, since Tasmania has a high rate of dementia risk factors. [Source: Shutterstock]
This project will be the biggest in the world for dementia research and will be focusing on Tasmanian participants, since Tasmania has a high rate of dementia risk factors. [Source: Shutterstock]

The Island Study Linking Ageing and Neurodegenerative Disease (ISLAND) Project specifically focusses on Tasmanian participants, since Tasmania has a high rate of dementia risk factors.

This project will be the biggest in the world for dementia research and participants will engage in a variety of tasks, such as surveys, medical testing and online courses.

Wicking Dementia Centre Director Professor James Vickers says the project will be undertaken over a long period of time and is the first in the world to target a whole population through a public health and educational campaign.  

“Age is the biggest risk factor for dementia, and Tasmania has the oldest population in the country which is ageing faster than the national average,” he says.  

“Tasmania also has high rates of modifiable risk factors of dementia; however it has been estimated that a third of dementia cases may be prevented if the population can attend to these risk factors.

“The project will provide strategies for individuals and communities to promote and engage in activities to improve many dementia risk factors.”

The purpose of the research is to investigate who is most at risk of developing dementia and what ways people can manage their own behaviours to reduce the risk of getting dementia.

Participants will be empowered to self-manage significant dementia risk factors over the course of the research project.

ISLAND project will be developing a toolbox to help participants monitor dementia risk factors and behaviours.

The researchers are also aiming to establish a statewide registry tracking the incidence of dementia.

For Tasmania, this registry will assist the health system in understanding the prevalence and impact of dementia.

Researchers have a short term goal of seeing if they can shift the dementia risk behaviours in people, with a long term aim of reducing the age-specific incidence of dementia in Tasmania.

The ISLAND project will also research who is most at risk of developing dementia through their lifestyle, resilience, biomarkers, and genetic factors, and whether dementia can be detected early on with a simple blood test.

Tasmania has around 12,000 people with dementia, with the possibility of increasing to 30,000 by 2050.

The Wicking Dementia Research has had a lot of success with their Understanding Dementia and Preventing Dementia Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), which offers university like education around dementia research and care.

Combining engagement from Preventing Dementia MOOC with other community co-developed programs, this new study will potentially lower the risk of dementia for participants.

Around 155,000 people were involved in the Understanding Dementia MOOC project from around 185 different countries.

To sign up to the ISLAND Project, there are no huge barriers to be involved besides being over the age of 50 and located in Tasmania.

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