Brain Health Redux

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July 23, 2019 - George Vradenburg
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Over the past two weeks, I have had the opportunity to participate in a number of important events that have further validated UsAgainstAlzheimer’s urgent call for a new approach to brain health across the lifespan.

At the 2019 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference that just wrapped in Los Angeles – an important gathering of leaders across academia, research, advocacy, policy, and the pharmaceutical industry – the notion of preventive brain health as a means of potentially slowing or even stopping cognitive decline through risk-modifying behaviors was a component of some of the newest and most innovative research on display.

Among the key themes of this year’s conference was the urgent need to diversify our race for a cure with research that highlighted the biological and sociocultural differences in Alzheimer’s among Latinos, African Americans, women, and other underrepresented communities. The presentation of this important research continues to validate the work our organization has been doing in calling for and creating a pathway for an optimal system of brain care in this country that is accessible to all communities.

In April 2019, UsAgainstAlzheimer’s called for an annual brain health check-up to become a basic part of routine care. We issued this call for action via a new white paper, entitled Creating an Optimal System of Brain Health Care, in conjunction with more than 40 experts from academia, business, health providers, the non-profit sector, and the highest levels of government. The focus on brain health, in parallel with continued, urgent pursuit of pharmacological solutions, is quickly becoming an ever-increasing part of the Alzheimer’s conversation in established convenings of experts in the field.

The discussion continued at a forum with our partners AARP and the Milken Institute on
“Reducing the Price and Risk of Dementia: Recommendations to Improve Brain Health and Decrease Disparities.” There I spoke about the urgent need to increase access to cognitive screening and early diagnosis as a critical pathway to ending Alzheimer’s. We know that regular cognitive assessments are important to determine baselines, identify changes in cognition, and guide those at risk or diagnosed with dementia to appropriate interventions and possible treatments.

We also know that communities of color and low-income communities face barriers to these assessments, so tailored solutions are needed to promote equity and access in the brain health field. An annual brain health check-up for all individuals is a critical first step in creating what we like to call a “culture of brain health,” one that encourages the same early cognitive screening and assessment we discussed with AARP and Milken.

In addition, since as recently as April, UsAgainstAlzheimer’s BeBrainPowerful campaign has engaged nearly 10,000 consumers across the country who are eager and interested in gaining and spreading knowledge about brain health, sharing a brain-positive message, and making a healthcare system that values and encourages prevention across communities.

The three action-areas in our white paper – equipping healthcare providers with solutions to support brain health, creating consumer demand for lifelong brain health care, and aligning business incentives for payers and providers – provide recommendations and a path forward as our nation keeps its gaze fixed on finding an effective means of treatment or prevention of Alzheimer’s disease, and, ultimately, a cure, by 2025.

UsAgainstAlzheimer’s continues to lead on creating that culture of brain health for all communities. As new science in this area continues to emerge, we look forward to shaping the dialogue and translating ideas into better care and ultimately a cure. Patients and families have waited long enough.

About the Author

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George Vradenburg

George is Chairman of UsAgainstAlzheimer’s, which he co-founded in October 2010. He was named by U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to serve on the Advisory Council on Research, Care, and Services established by the National Alzheimer's Project Act and has testified before Congress about the global Alzheimer’s pandemic. He is a member of the World Dementia Council.