UsAgainstAlzheimer’s Decries Federal Task Force’s Failure to Recognize Importance of Cognitive Screening

Urges Patients and Doctors to Continue Talking About Ways to Improve Brain Health

Washington, D.C. (February 25, 2020) – UsAgainstAlzheimer’s (UsA2) today urged patients to continue talking with their healthcare providers about ways to improve brain health, following a disappointing federal task force finding on the lack of evidence regarding the benefits of cognitive screening.

The call to action was in response to a report by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) which said there is “insufficient” evidence on whether cognitive screenings improve outcomes for patients or their caregivers. The report of the task force, which makes recommendations about preventive clinical services, appeared today in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“This disappointing task force finding raises the risk that patients and their doctors will not discuss brain health, increases the likelihood of later diagnosis of dementia and makes it more difficult for people to get needed interventions earlier in the disease,” said George Vradenburg, chairman and co-founder of UsAgainstAlzheimer’s. “Our nation has set a national goal to prevent or effectively treat Alzheimer’s by 2025, and this finding is a step in the wrong direction.

“Early diagnosis can help identify forms of mild cognitive impairment that may be treated or reversed, which demonstrates the critical importance of cognitive screening,” Vradenburg said. “The federal government needs to commit now to robust research to better assess and document the positive outcomes from cognitive screenings for patients and caregivers.”

For example, the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) in September called for annual cognitive assessments for patients over age 65. AAN said early diagnosis can help identify forms of mild cognitive impairment that may be reversible, including those caused by sleep problems, depression or medications. Detection and diagnosis could lead to treatments that can improve a person’s quality of life such as correcting hearing loss and avoiding social isolation.

In the United States, the Medicare Annual Wellness Visit requires an assessment to detect cognitive impairment, and AAN has said that clinicians assessing for cognitive impairment should use a brief, validated cognitive assessment instrument in addition to eliciting patient and informant history regarding cognitive concerns.

In addition, the task force’s position – the second time since 2014 that it has found “insufficient” evidence of impact – comes at a time that a growing number of leading non-governmental organizations and federal agencies have been working to make screenings more available to older Americans. Agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services have been taking steps to advance detection, diagnosis, medical care, residential and home and community-based services, family caregiver support, and research participation.

UsA2 and a range of nearly 200 organizations, advocates and experts had filed comments in October urging a revision of the task force’s preliminary finding about insufficient evidence regarding cognitive screening. The comments signed by by AAN, Milken Institute, Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, the LEAD Coalition, The Kennedy Forum, National Behavioral Health Council and YMCA of the USA – strongly disputed the task force’s earlier draft recommendation.


About UsAgainstAlzheimer’s (UsA2)

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 to and resilience against possible cognitive decline.