The National Ageing Research Institute has welcomed Associate Professor Tuan Anh Nguyen in the Social Gerontology Division, where he will contribute to our work around cultural diversity and dementia care.

Associate Professor Nguyen is an NHMRC-ARC Dementia Research Development Fellow and currently leading an NHMRC-NAFOSTED grant to develop Vietnam’s National Dementia Plan.

“As recently as two years ago dementia was not a recognised health problem in Vietnam, simply because there was no awareness of the condition," said Associate Professor Nguyen. "But our research efforts created opportunities for national dialogue and we were able to successfully advocate for dementia to become one of the health priorities for Vietnam."

“Now we are preparing the final dementia action plan for approval, and it will become the national policy for Vietnam for the next five years.”

At NARI a focus for Associate Professor Nguyen is his NHMRC-e-ASIA grant to empower dementia carers in Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia and Vietnam with a virtual assistant tool.

“This will enable family carers of people with dementia who have very little support, knowledge and skill to provide care and also look after themselves,” he says.

Associate Professor Nguyen also co-leads the capacity-building component of a US National Institute of Health grant to develop the next generation of dementia researchers in Vietnam.

“We want to attract the best and brightest researchers from around Vietnam to dementia research. We will connect them with high-income-country mentors to build relationships and collaborations with leaders in the field around the globe.”

Associate Professor Nguyen is passionate about dementia research to improve the lives of the most needy population groups such as those in low and middle-income countries and from CALD Communities.

His drive comes from personal experience in Vietnam caring for his grandmother living with dementia, and the lack of knowledge and support available to his family.

“Both my wife and I were trained in pharmacy and medicine but we were not trained in dementia, and we didn’t recognise the condition. The same for the doctors we took my grandmother to – no one recognised dementia,” says Associate Professor Nguyen. “The lack of support from social and medical sectors in Vietnam was the driving force for me to work in the area of dementia research and develop a national action plan.”

He says the disadvantage faced by low and middle-income countries grappling with an ageing population is enormous.

“For low and middle-income countries their ageing population and its associated problems including dementia, are like an oncoming Tsunami. If they don’t prepare, these problems could wipe out their whole healthcare system,” said Associate Professor Nguyen. “I conduct research because I have a passion to improve the life of the most needy population groups.”