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McMaster awarded $1M to address undiagnosed dementia gap


Published: February 1, 2021

More than 432,000 Canadians over the age of 65 are living with dementia, but there is no current estimate of undiagnosed dementia in Canada. 

A new investment in a flagship research initiative led by McMaster University will change that by addressing the knowledge gap around undiagnosed dementia and improving understanding of known and emerging risk factors related to the disease.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is providing nearly $1 million in federal funding through the Enhanced Dementia Surveillance Program, which aims to explore innovative ways to close data gaps on dementia progression and impacts, socio-demographic and risk factors, and caregivers.

The research will be carried out as part of the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA), a national platform for research on aging led by researchers at McMaster and all 10 provinces across the country. The grant is one of six new PHAC initiatives to implement Canada’s national dementia strategy.

The CLSA collects data from more than 50,000 participants who were between the ages of 45 and 85 when recruited, and follows them for 20 years. The platform is led by McMaster’s Parminder Raina, the lead principal investigator and scientific director of the McMaster Institute for Research on Aging (MIRA). Christina Wolfson of McGill University and Susan Kirkland of Dalhousie University are co-principal investigators.

“The CLSA collects a wide variety of data on neurological conditions and psychological measures, including memory and cognition, making it an ideal platform to monitor how the brain changes as we age,” said Raina, professor of the Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact and scientific director of the McMaster Institute for Research on Aging.

The CLSA dementia initiative will focus on:

  • Establishing an estimate of undiagnosed dementia in Canada by validating dementia cases using CLSA data
  • Linking CLSA data with provincial health-care databases to assess undiagnosed dementia and confirm diagnosed cases
  • Conducting an analysis of known and emerging risk factors associated with dementia, and determining the feasibility of adding additional measures to enhance the CLSA as a dementia platform

The dementia project will be co-led by Lauren Griffith and Andrew Costa, both associate professors of McMaster’s Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact and associate scientific directors of the CLSA.

“Gathering population-level data over a long period of time can help us to better understand risk factors as well as provide estimates of the burden of diagnosed and undiagnosed dementia in Canada,” said Griffith, who also holds the McLaughlin Foundation Professorship in Population and Public Health.

“Research to address the ‘dementia diagnosis gap’ is essential to ensure evidence-informed public policy and health-service planning,” said Costa, the Schlegel Research Chair in Clinical Epidemiology and Aging. “In the long-term, that means improved care and better supports for people living with dementia and their caregivers.”



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