NA­TIONAL

The Korea Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Kim Hyun-bin hyun­[email protected]­re­atimes.co.kr

The Korean govern­ment will al­lo­cate a bud­get worth 198.7 bil­lion won for de­men­tia re­search over the next nine years, in an ef­fort to tackle the rapid in­crease in the num­ber of cases of neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive diseases.

The govern­ment will al­lo­cate a bud­get worth 198.7 bil­lion won ($167 mil­lion) for de­men­tia re­search over the next nine years, in an ef­fort to tackle the rapid in­crease in the num­ber of cases of neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive diseases.

Ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry of Health and Wel­fare, the de­men­tia sup­port mea­sures were con­firmed dur­ing a meet­ing of the na­tional de­men­tia man­age­ment com­mit­tee in Seoul, Tues­day.

One of the Moon Jae-in ad­min­is­tra­tion’s key poli­cies has been to in­crease the state’s re­spon­si­bil­ity for tak­ing care of de­men­tia pa­tients.

The min­istry plans to fo­cus its re­search on mid- to long-term de­men­tia treat­ments, which in­clude tech­nolo­gies to di­ag­nose de­men­tia in the early stages, pre­vent it and treat it as well as re­duc­ing the mon­e­tary bur­den on fam­i­lies and cus­tom­ized med­i­cal ser­vices.

The pro­gram will be funded for nine years from 2020 to 2028.

The govern­ment plans to fund the de­vel­op­ment of tech­nolo­gies and equip­ment en­abling doc­tors to ex­am­ine and treat de­men­tia pa­tients based on their blood and body flu­ids as well as bio sig­nals.

It also aims to fos­ter di­ag­nos­tic med­i­cal pro­ce­dures us­ing ra­dio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals as well as en­hanc­ing digital anal­y­sis equip­ment and test­ing tech­niques.

Cur­rently, de­men­tia med­i­ca­tions only re­lieve symp­toms or slow down the de­vel­op­ment of neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive diseases, but the govern­ment aims to de­velop med­i­ca­tions that could tackle their fun­da­men­tal cause.

Ac­cord­ing to the min­istry, ill­nesses that gen­er­ally af­fect the el­derly have be­come a ma­jor con­cern for Korea as the coun­try be­came an aged so­ci­ety in 2017 with more than 14 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion older than 65. The coun­try ex­pects to be­come su­per-aged by 2026 with the el­derly pop­u­la­tion ex­ceed­ing one-fifth of the to­tal.

There were close to 749,000 de­men­tia pa­tients in 2018 but that num­ber is ex­pected to more than quadru­ple by 2060, ex­ceed­ing 3.32 mil­lion pa­tients.

“Once we com­plete the de­men­tia re­search project, we will be able to de­tect early signs of de­men­tia and de­lay the on­set of de­men­tia through preven­tive treat­ments,” the min­istry said in a state­ment.

Start­ing Septem­ber 2017, the govern­ment has been ex­pand­ing treat­ment and poli­cies to re­duce the fi­nan­cial bur­den for de­men­tia pa­tients and fam­i­lies, while pro­vid­ing long-term care ser­vices for se­verely af­fected pa­tients at des­ig­nated state-run hos­pi­tals.

In the past two years, it set up 256 de­men­tia care cen­ters that have been used by over 2.62 mil­lion peo­ple for con­sul­ta­tions, in­di­vid­ual case man­age­ment and med­i­cal ser­vices.

Since Oc­to­ber 2017, na­tional health in­sur­ance has been cov­er­ing most of the med­i­cal costs for pa­tients with se­vere de­men­tia.

In ad­di­tion, an in­crease in sup­port by the govern­ment has dras­ti­cally re­duced the cost of de­men­tia check­ups from 300,000 won to 150,000 won as well as the av­er­age med­i­cal costs for de­men­tia pa­tients from 480,000 won to 200,000 won. Some 40,000 pa­tients have ben­e­fited from the sup­port since late 2017.

Yon­hap

Vice Health Min­is­ter Kim Gang-lip, left, talks about the govern­ment’s de­men­tia sup­port mea­sures dur­ing a na­tional de­men­tia man­age­ment com­mit­tee meet­ing held at the Mil­len­nium Seoul Hil­ton, Tues­day.

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