“A critical friend”: awareness campaigns

I have just read:

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It begins: [we]

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As a doctor who openly asks questions I see great value in being a “critical friend”:

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The Alzheimer Scotland Strategic Review outlines significant progress:

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The current campaign by Alzheimer Scotland encourages “difficult conversations”:

2 Feb 2015 Alz Scot early diagnosis a

This Alzheimer Scotland campaign promotes early diagnosis. As a critical friend I have expressed concerns about this campaign:

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A few months before this campaign was launched, Alzheimer Scotland:


The Glasgow Declaration, signed by the then Cabinet Minister for Health, Alex Neil, enshrined “timely diagnosis” (below). It has now been signed by 1815 individuals and 50 organisations across Europe. This international agreement does not advocate early diagnosis.

Glasgow-declaration signed

Dr Margaret McCartney asked in her book “The patient paradox”:

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and offered this concern:

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Age related memory loss (that is not dementia) can be a reality for us all as we age. It is however very far from inevitable. Such mild impairments generally follow a parabolic distribution through life. The following book by Douwe Draaisma covers the science of this:

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Dr McCartney raised the following consequence of “awareness campaigns”:

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and concluded that:

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It would seem to me that is virtually impossible to open a newspaper or watch any form of broadcast media today without being made aware of dementia or “Alzheimers”.

Such awareness may have unintended consequences:007 as a critical friendNeil Hay, SNP candidate for Edinburgh South, has followed the awareness campaigns by Alzheimer Scotland, a charity also based in Edinburgh:

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Last week on social media, Neil Hay, SNP candidate for Edinburgh South expressed that older folk:


Perhaps then the question posed by Dr McCartney should not be:

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Instead we might ask, all as ‘critical friends’, the evidence and ethics behind such “awareness campaigns”.

Furthermore, in seeking health, should we be more wary of simplified messages that might carry unintended consequences such as anxiety, fear, ageism and stigma.

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