Broad Coalition of Health, Aging and Advocacy Groups Calls for National Prevention Goal for Alzheimer's and Related Dementias
UsAgainstAlzheimer’s, AARP, Milken Institute, National Kidney Foundation, National Consumers League, YMCA and others urge action on prevention ‘north star’
WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 17, 2020) – More than 80 health, aging and advocacy groups and leaders today called for the United States to set a national prevention goal to ultimately reduce the number of people who develop Alzheimer’s and related dementias.
“Our nation cannot waver from its drive to find effective therapies and cures for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, but we also must give greater emphasis to reducing risks of getting Alzheimer’s in the first place,” said George Vradenburg, chairman and co-founder of UsAgainstAlzheimer’s, which has led the effort for a national prevention goal.
“At AARP, with our 38 million members age 50 and older, we know we can’t simply sit back and wait for a cure,” said Jo Ann Jenkins, AARP CEO. “We need to work to reduce risks now, improve care and help people keep their brains healthy while they age.”
A joint statement released today, signed by a growing list of organizations and leaders, calls for the adoption of a national, measurable, time-bound impact prevention goal for Alzheimer’s and related dementias. The statement seeks a national commitment to reducing dementia similar to efforts to reduce heart disease and other health challenges. To see the joint statement and a complete list of signatories to date, click here.
The National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA), signed into law in 2011, established a national goal to prevent and effectively treat Alzheimer's disease by 2025. The NAPA Advisory Council on Alzheimer’s Research, Care and Services is set to meet on July 20 to consider updates to the national plan.
“The NAPA Advisory Council should recommend adoption by the Department of Health and Human Services of a national prevention goal in its upcoming update of the national plan,” Vradenburg added. “A fully developed national prevention goal and strategy should be embraced in the coming year across the federal government with input from and collaboration with a broad range of stakeholders from the private sector.”
Alzheimer’s disease is a public health crisis that is expanding as the U.S. population ages. Currently, about 5.8 million people in the U.S. have Alzheimer’s, a number projected to increase to nearly 14 million people by 2050. An estimated 500,000 Americans a year die as a result of Alzheimer’s, and at the current pace, more than 15 million will die by 2050. Without early intervention and treatment, the cumulative care costs are projected to exceed $20 trillion over the next 30 years.
Communities of color and women bear a disproportionate burden, making Alzheimer’s one of the nation’s most overlooked healthcare inequities. By 2030, nearly 40% of all Americans living with Alzheimer’s will be Black or Latino.
“Our nation must do more to change the course of this disease,” the groups said in the joint statement. “For too long, people living with dementia their families and caregivers have heard of the disappointments of drug trials and the difficulty of finding an Alzheimer’s cure. That must change – now. It is time to replace despair and disappointment with determination and hope; it is time to show there are steps that our nation can take to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia, delay onset, and promote brain health.
“Emerging science points to the ability to reduce dementia risk and slow the rate of cognitive decline as people age through early detection and nonpharmacological and pharmacological interventions across the lifespan, particularly in midlife and at the earliest pre-dementia stages,” the joint statement said. “Studies indicate more than a third of dementia cases are potentially preventable by addressing risk factors.”
“Establishing a national, measurable dementia prevention goal is a good idea,” said Dr. David Satcher, a former U.S. Surgeon General and former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Efforts to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and related dementias should be closely aligned with other public health efforts to combat obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other chronic conditions that share the same risk factors disproportionately impact communities of color.”
"The United States is not good at prevention strategies; we are better at dealing with a crisis at hand than a looming crisis on the horizon such as the growing number of Americans with Alzheimer's and dementia," said Kathleen Sebelius, a former secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. "It is so important to have a tangible goal that is both aspirational but also can be realistic; to have milestones and metrics to reach that goal and to drive resources, energy and talent to that end."
The leading groups, companies and individuals advocating for a national prevention goal include American Public Health Association; Association of State and Territorial Health Officials; The Balm in Gilead, Inc.; Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation; Gerontological Society of America; Hispanic Neuropsychological Society; LEAD Coalition (Leaders Engaged on Alzheimer’s Disease); MANA, A National Latina Organization; Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging; National Association of Chronic Disease Directors; National Consumers League; National Kidney Foundation; Kathleen Sebelius, former Secretary of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; The John A. Hartford Foundation; Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement and YMCA of the USA.
“A clear prevention 'north star' will benefit families, society, economy and our nation,” the joint statement said.
Preventing or delaying dementia will improve quality of life for individuals of all ages and increase the likelihood that adults can thrive and remain independent into their later years. It will reduce financial pressure on individuals and the healthcare system and lower costs to public programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Preventing or delaying dementia would also decrease the cognitive, physical, psychological and economic burdens on those living with symptoms that often last more than a decade and their families.
In addition, because research shows dementia seems to be tightly linked to other chronic conditions and the social determinants of health, a national prevention strategy to reduce dementia risk will require the largescale mobilization of clinical, policy, and public health efforts to reduce the rate of diabetes, hypertension, sleep disorders and depression and to improve the health and social conditions of communities at the greatest risk of dementia.
What Other Leading Organizations Are Saying About a National Prevention Goal:
“We know that dementia is not an inevitable part of aging, and emerging evidence shows that there many things we can do to promote brain health and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and related forms of dementia,” said Nora Super, executive director of the Alliance to Improve Dementia Care and senior director of the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging. “The Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging strongly supports a time-measured goal aimed at preventing dementia.”
"With Latinx individuals being one and half times more likely to develop Alzheimer's than non-Hispanic/Latinx whites, we must take bold action to address disparities in Alzheimer's impacting our nation's 55 million Latinx families," said Dr. Veronica Bordes Edgar, PhD, ABPP, President of the Hispanic Neuropsychological Society and Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. "Tailored Alzheimer's prevention and brain health promotion strategies are critical to better public health and reduction of health disparities."
"As an organization committed to strengthening individual and community well-being, the Y understands the power of prevention to save lives and enrich quality of life. We're proud to stand with our partners in this coalition and call attention to the critical importance of physical activity to slowing cognitive decline and preventing and controlling dementia," said Kevin Washington, president and chief executive of YMCA of the USA, the national resource office for the more than 2,600 Ys across the country.
“Many patients are not aware that Alzheimer's is not an inevitable outgrowth of the aging process and can be addressed through awareness and strategic prevention and intervention tactics that aim to reduce cognitive decline,” said Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League. “Alzheimer’s remains one of the most underfunded and underdiagnosed chronic illnesses, despite having devastating effects equivalent to that of cancer or diabetes, and NCL supports national efforts to provide consumers and patients with resources and information on the risks to developing Alzheimer's and strategies to help aid prevention.”
“Heart and brain health are closely connected, and essential to living a long and full life. Up to 80% of brain disease can be linked to cardiovascular disease – the leading cause of death in the U.S. Through our work, we know that what’s good for the heart is good for the brain. That is why, on behalf of the American Heart Association, we support an ambitious national goal to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias," said Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association.
UsAgainstAlzheimer’s (UsA2) is a disruptive advocacy and research-focused organization that is pushing for expanding treatments and accelerating towards a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. UsA2’s transformative programming is laser-focused on proactive brain health across the lifespan and understanding what matters most across the lived experiences of those affected by Alzheimer’s in the service of preventing, treating and curing this disease. We are working to ensure that all communities have their voices heard and get a chance to be brain healthy from the earliest years while building resistance against possible cognitive decline.