Friday, August 26, 2011

The National Alzheimer’s Project Act

The recent news reports that Alzheimer's has stricken Tennessee woman's basketball coach and legend Pat Summit and singer Glen Campbell brings tears to many hearts.  Bless them both for making their illnesses public.  Maybe this will help Alzheimer's gain the national attention and funding it deserves.

Washington at least nodded its head at Alzheimer's earlier this year. The National Alzheimer’s Project Act was signed into law on January 4, 2011. The Act establishes a National Alzheimer’s Project within the Department of Health and Human Services, to coordinate the country’s approach to research, treatment and caregiving. Its goal is to “accelerate the development of treatments that would prevent, halt or reverse the course of Alzheimer’s” and “improve the early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and coordination of the care and treatment of citizens with Alzheimer’s.” 


While the Act itself does not authorize more money, one of the recommendations of the national plan may be for an increase in research money for Alzheimer’s. The legislation was driven by the rapidly rising number of people with Alzheimer’s — currently about 5.3 million and expected to triple by 2050.  


An advisory council is to draft an annual report on federally financed programs involving research, treatment, nursing homes, and home care, and recommend which to expand or eliminate. A fact sheet about the Act prepared by the Alzheimer’s Association is available at http://www.kintera.org/atf/cf/%7BB96E2E84-AF7D-4656-9C86-285306F00E19%7D/2011%20NAPA%20Factsheet.pdf

HHS has named the first 12 members of the advisory council according to The Hill. See the list here. The impressive panel will be joined by 10 members from federal agencies.  

Let's hope Congress follows up with some additional financial support for Alzheimer's research. It would be a wise investment. The cost of care for Alzheimer's victims to Medicare and Medicaid was about $170 billion in 2010.  By 2050, according to Republican Senator Collins of Maine, it will grow to $800 billion a year, more than the current military budget. 

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