KUALA LUMPUR 2 August 2017 —  At the first ever IRNDP Asia/Pacific networking meeting, Professor Kaarin Anstey and Dr Ruth Peters discussed ways in which IRNDP could be relevant in Malaysia with colleagues from the Health Faculty of the National University of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur.

Joining the discussion were representatives from the academic community, medical practitioners, dieticians, clinical psychologists, PhD students and key people in policy and stakeholder groups in the region.

Professor Anstey and Dr Peters were in Malaysia at the invitation of Professor Suzana Shahar at the School of Healthcare Sciences. Professor Shahar is also a member of the IRNDP Leadership Committee.

“Research findings from the Malaysian research group at the Health Faculty have so far shown that dementia risk factors are very similar to those in Australia,” said Professor Anstey.

“But, as may be expected from a different culture, additional protective factors in the Malay community – like fasting – may be relevant in dementia prevention,” she said.

In Malaysia, key steps towards dementia prevention research and knowledge translation include:

  • Raising awareness and understanding of risk factors amongst the community by using novel ways to disseminate existing published guidelines and tools, for example, while older adults in Malaysia are relatively active in using technology, this is mostly for social media and communication rather than brain training or learning.
  • Becoming involved in World Dementia Council (WDC) activities to support low- middle-income countries (LMICs) like Malaysia to engage in WDC activities that reduce the risks of dementia. A pilot program to develop a risk reduction tool/calculator in Indonesia is one example.

Professor Anstey said that participants were very interested in learning how IRNDP could be most helpful in Malaysia and ways in which interaction, communication and collaboration could work.

“We came away from the meeting with a new understanding of the common priorities and concern we share about dementia prevention and feel very positive that IRNDP will provide a means by which we can work with Malaysian researchers and stakeholders.”

One theme that recurs in any discussions on how LMICs can participate in IRNDP and its activities is cost.

“IRNDP is a free resource and we want to ensure that our colleagues in low- middle-income countries can participate in collaboration free from economic barriers. A problem with meetings in Europe and North America is the cost and length of travel,” she said.

“This is one of the main reasons why we plan to have our first international conference in Malaysia in 2020 to make the conference accessible to those in the Asia-Pacific region but we need to have meetings in other regions as well to overcome geographical barriers.”

IRNDP will be discussing options for travel bursaries, scholarships and other sponsorship opportunities for the conference with a range of stakeholders at global, national and regional levels over the coming months.