A Letter from Our Chairman

Dear Friend,

UsAgainstAlzheimer’s Brain Health Partnership has issued a Call to Action white paper outlining recommendations for building a better system of care to promote brain health and fight back against Alzheimer’s.

This is a seminal moment in our understanding of Alzheimer’s and brain health. This Call to Action represents an important milestone in our work at UsAgainstAlzheimer’s. More than 40 experts contributed to this effort, including Former Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins, Former Surgeon General David Satcher, SCAN Foundation President Dr. Bruce Chernof, CDC’s Healthy Aging Lead Lisa McGuire and others. We are building consensus that the time is right to take action and stop Alzheimer’s from stealing our minds and breaking our economy.

Years ago, the then emerging science taught us that there were proactive steps we could take to reduce the risk of heart disease -- exercising, quitting smoking, eating right and demanding blood pressure and cholesterol checks annually became baseline standards for healthy living. Heart health became a proxy for overall health. Today, just as with heart health, we now have rapidly advancing science that points to the ability to reduce dementia risk and enhance cognitive function and health as we age. Researchers increasingly challenge the view that dementia, like heart disease, is an inevitable and unavoidable condition of old age, over which we have no control and for which we can do nothing. In fact, a recent study by the Lancet Commission found that “around 35 percent of dementia is attributable to a combination of the following nine risk factors: education to a maximum age of 11-12 years, midlife hypertension, midlife obesity, hearing loss, late-life depression, diabetes, physical inactivity, smoking and social isolation.”

In other words, more than one-third of dementia cases may be preventable through proactive actions taken to promote brain health across the lifespan and build cognitive resilience. This is empowering – but only if we act on it. UsA2 wants to make sure we do.

The Call to Action paper will be released tomorrow and widely disseminated in the coming weeks, and I encourage you to share it.

The work of implementing these recommendations begins in earnest. Among other things, the Call to Action recommends making an annual brain check-up a standard practice, developing better resources and tools for providers, leveraging the power of consumer demand, and aligning business incentives for both public and private payers and systems to better promote proactive brain health.

Consistent with our approach in developing the Call to Action paper, we will be advancing these recommendations together with experts and partners. I invite you to join us in this effort. For starters, we need to pass the CHANGE Act on Capitol Hill which encourages early detection, diagnosis and intervention. We will also be diving in to move forward the other key recommendations in the paper, via policy and practice reforms and consumer outreach.

Preventing and effectively treating Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are among the most important and urgent challenges of the 21st century. The search for a cure or an effective treatment is essential, and it is not the only approach to tackling this epidemic. To make brain span equal to lifespan, we must broaden our efforts to incorporate risk- reduction strategies throughout an individual’s lifetime by integrating a focus on brain health into the culture and healthcare system.

Thank you again for your friendship and partnership. Please raise your hand if you would like to be more actively engaged in this work - we need you.

With gratitude,