Interview with Mercè Boada, MOPEAD project leader, Founder and Medical Director of Fundació ACE, Institut Català de Neurociències Aplicades.
What are the issues addressed by MOPEAD, how will MOPEAD help to solve these issues?
The difficulty of diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in the very early stages lies in the belief of the general population, and some health professionals, that some cognitive deficits are “normal” in the elderly. In addition, there are structural problems that affect the functioning of our health systems, making early diagnosis difficult at a population level.
That is why one of the priority issues at a global level is to consolidate early diagnosis and to identify people at risk of developing AD. Memory loss is an important factor calling for clinical evaluation. Sadly, memory loss often goes unnoticed due to a huge lack of information and training in cognitive assessments. MOPEAD will explore innovative methods at population level to promote early diagnosis.
What is unique about this project?
The socio-economic and cultural contexts are heterogeneous across the EU countries. Early diagnosis strategies that are successful in one country may not be successful in another. On this basis, MOPEAD will test four innovative diagnostic strategies in five European countries at the same time to establish which strategies work best in which country and specific context. This project will specifically explore the usefulness of new technologies and the internet in the early diagnosis of AD.
Another distinguishing characteristic of MOPEAD is that it will engage a wide range of stakeholders, from general population to health professionals in order to achieve a global paradigm shift towards early diagnosis. The project outcomes will be used to shape the new health and social policies.
In what way will this project benefit society as a whole?
Although there is no cure for AD yet, early diagnosis has many important benefits for society and individuals. First of all, it helps patients and families settle any doubt about the cause of the cognitive disorder. It helps understand the person’s behavioral changes and deal with the associated burden of living with someone with dementia It also ends the pilgrimage of seeking diagnosis among different doctors.
Importantly, the sooner patients are informed, the more time they have to make decisions about their future, while they are still in a position to do so. These decisions will impact not only their health but also the economic and legal issues that affect their families as the disease progresses. These are truly complex situations that become a huge source of problems if not dealt with in time.
Finally, when patients are diagnosed in the first stages of the disease, we can offer care advice that can help maintain cognitive function for a time, as well as recommendations for participation in medical and social research but also in clinical trials.