Exploring English policymakers' attitudes towards dementia risk reduction: A qualitative study

Sebastian Walsh, Hannah Roscoe, Elspeth Mathie, Lindsay Wallace, Ishtar Govia, Carol Brayne

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Aim: A growing evidence-base indicates that dementia occurrence can be changed. This has been linked to potentially modifiable risk factors. Risk reduction and primary prevention strategies are increasingly recognized as needing to include population-level policies to tackle the social and commercial determinants of health. How this knowledge can influence policymaking on dementia prevention is unknown. Understanding attitudes of policymakers is an important step in translating evidence into practice, helping to gauge system readiness for implementation, and potential barriers and enablers for influencing policy. The aim of this qualitative study is to explore the understanding of, and attitudes to, dementia risk reduction and population-level prevention strategies amongst English policymakers at national, regional, and local level.

Methods: Semi-structured interviews were undertaken with a range of dementia and prevention policymakers, with purposive sampling of national and local policymakers, including politicians, government officials, health system leaders, academics, and dementia charity directors. Analysis of interview transcripts was undertaken by thematic analysis.

Results: 14 policymakers were interviewed between November 2021 and February 2022. Three main themes were identified (1) Preventability of dementia, (2) Prevention approach, (3) Barriers and facilitators to improving the approach.

Discussion: Policymakers generally held dementia to be partially preventable. Policymakers recognised that both individual- and population-level approaches to primary prevention of dementia are required – with some policymakers perceiving that population-level approaches are under-utilised. Key barriers to implementing more population-level approaches were identified as the complexity and co-ordination required to effectively tackle upstream determinants of health.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere6009
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 4 Oct 2023


  • Humans
  • Health Policy
  • Policy Making
  • Qualitative Research
  • Risk Reduction Behavior
  • Dementia/prevention & control


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