For a long time, senility was thought to be something that just happened naturally to some people when they got old. It was not thought of as a potentially preventable, treatable disease. Thirty years ago, there was a rather rare disease in young people, called premature senile dementia, in which the minds of afflicted young people deteriorated the way the minds of some elderly people deteriorated. This rare disease of young people had another name: Alzheimer's disease. When researchers studying Alzheimer's disease examined samples of brain tissue from deceased young people who had Alzheimer's disease, with an electron microscope, they discovered unusual structures which were named "plaques". When samples of brain tissue from deceased senile elderly people were examined by the same technique, the same unusual plaques were seen. It was a revelation: senile dementia was Alzheimer's disease in elderly people, not a normal event in aging. It was not a rare disease, but rather a very common one which afflicted many people late in life. Because of this discovery, research on how to prevent and treat Alzheimer's disease became a high priority for the biomedical community. Research on Alzheimer's disease greatly increased in scope, scale and pace.
The Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential is a collaboration between UIA and Mankind 2000, started in 1972. It is the result of an ambitious effort to collect and present information on the problems with which humanity is confronted, as well as the challenges such problems pose to concept formation, values and development strategies. Problems included are those identified in international periodicals but especially in the documents of some 60,000 international non-profit organizations, profiled in the Yearbook of International Organizations.
The Encyclopedia includes problems which such groups choose to perceive and act upon, whether or not their existence is denied by others claiming greater expertise. Indeed such claims and counter-claims figure in many of the problem descriptions in order to reflect the often paralyzing dynamics of international debate. In the light of the interdependence demonstrated among world problems in every sector, emphasis is placed on the need for approaches which are sufficiently complex to encompass the factions, conflicts and rival worldviews that undermine collective initiative towards a promising future.
Non-profit, apolitical, independent, and non-governmental in nature, the UIA has been a pioneer in the research, monitoring and provision of information on international organizations, international associations and their global challenges since 1907.