With populations ageing, 78 million people worldwide could live with dementia, a neurological disorder that robs them of their memory, by the end of 2030 the UN health agency has said.
The progressive condition can be caused by stroke, brain injury or Alzheimer's disease.
More than 55 million people now live with dementia worldwide, and there are nearly 10 million new cases every year. So, it is a global public health concern and not just in high-income countries.
The disease affects memory, orientation, learning capacity, language, judgement, and the ability to perform everyday tasks.
Although the disease, one of the greatest generational health challenges, is the seventh leading cause of mortality in the world, dementia research makes up less than 1.5 percent of all health research output, World Health Organization (WHO) Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan said.
"We are falling behind in implementing the Global action plan on the public health response to dementia 2017-25," she said, adding that addressing dementia comprehensively requires "research and innovation to be an integral part of the response."
The WHO Tuesday launched the first research blueprint for tackling the disease as strategies are needed to better understand, prevent, and treat the underlying diseases that cause it and to provide care and support to people who suffer from it, as well as those who care for them.
The blueprint for dementia research, the first WHO initiative of its kind for non-communicable diseases, is designed to guide policymakers, funders, and the research community on dementia research, making it more efficient, equitable, and impactful.
"We can achieve progress in dementia research by strengthening and monitoring the drivers of research highlighted in the blueprint so that they become the norm for good research practice," Ren Minghui, WHO's assistant director-general UHC/communicable and noncommunicable diseases, said.
Developing dementia is not inevitable and some risk factors can be reduced, by controlling hypertension, diabetes, diet, depression, and the use of alcohol and tobacco, the WHO said.
With the ultimate goal of improving the quality of life and support provided to those living with dementia, those who provide care for them, and their families, the UN health agency said it would work with all to ensure that the actions outlined in the blueprint are implemented, milestones are met, and strategic goals are realised.