As many as 5.1 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease and that number is likely to double in the coming years. On January 4, 2011, President Obama signed the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA) which required the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to establish a National Alzheimer’s Project to:
· Create and maintain an integrated national plan to overcome Alzheimer’s disease.
· Coordinate Alzheimer’s disease research and services across all federal agencies.
· Accelerate the development of treatments that would prevent, halt, or reverse the course of Alzheimer’s disease.
· Improve early diagnosis and coordination of care and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
· Improve outcomes for ethnic and racial minority populations that are at higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
· Coordinate with international bodies to fight Alzheimer’s globally.
The law also established the Advisory Council on Alzheimer’s Research, Care, and Services and required the Secretary of HHS, in collaboration with the Advisory Council, to create and maintain a national plan to overcome Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
After releasing a preliminary plan and reviewing comments, the Council released the full plan details on May 15th. The national plan to fight Alzheimer’s is aimed at finding ways to prevent and effectively treat the disease by 2025. It outlines a series of initiatives to reach that goal, including increased research funding, more resources for caregivers and greater public awareness about the neurologic disorder.
For physicians and other health professionals, the Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) wants to bolster education efforts on identifying and caring for Alzheimer’s patients, increase support for geriatric training programs and broadly disseminate guidelines on caring for dementia patients. HHS has also launched a website to serve as a one-stop shop for caregivers and others seeking information about Alzheimer’s.
The initiatives announced on May 15th include:
1. Research -- The funding of new research projects by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will focus on key areas in which emerging technologies and new approaches in clinical testing now allow for a more comprehensive assessment of the disease. This research holds considerable promise for developing new and targeted approaches to prevention and treatment. Specifically, two major clinical trials are being funded. One is a $7.9 million effort to test an insulin nasal spray for treating Alzheimer's disease. A second study, toward which NIH is contributing $16 million, is the first prevention trial in people at the highest risk for the disease.
2. Tools for Clinicians -- The Health Resources and Services Administration has awarded $2 million in funding through its geriatric education centers to provide high-quality training for doctors, nurses, and other health care providers on recognizing the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and how to manage the disease.
3. Easier access to information to support caregivers -- HHS' new website, www.alzheimers.gov, offers resources and support to those facing Alzheimer's disease and their friends and family. The site is a gateway to reliable, comprehensive information from federal, state, and private organizations on a range of topics. Visitors to the site will find plain language information and tools to identify local resources that can help with the challenges of daily living, emotional needs, and financial issues related to dementia. Video interviews with real family caregivers explain why information is key to successful caregiving, in their own words.
4. Awareness campaign -- The first new television advertisement encouraging caregivers to seek information at the new website has been debuted. This media campaign will be launched in earnest this summer, with the hope of reaching family members and patients in need of information on Alzheimer's disease.
Although these steps are encouraging,the funding seems miniscule to this writer in comparison with the costs of the disease and inadequate to reach the goal of preventing and effectively treating Alzheimer’s by 2025. I also worry about what will happen to even this limited funding as Congress eventually is forced to deal with constrained government resources and the “fiscal cliff” that is looming at the end of this year. Hopefully the above initiatives will at least raise public awareness and the willingness to talk about this devastating disease.
Here are some links of note:
National Plan to Address Alzheimer's Disease
Full HTML Version http://aspe.hhs.gov/daltcp/napa/NatlPlan.shtml
Full PDF Version http://aspe.hhs.gov/daltcp/napa/NatlPlan.pdf (69 PDF pages)
PRESS RELEASE: Obama Administration Presents National Plan to Fight Alzheimer’s Disease
Full HTML Version http://aspe.hhs.gov/daltcp/napa/PR-051512.htm
Full PDF Version http://aspe.hhs.gov/daltcp/napa/PR-051512.pdf (2 PDF pages)
New Alzheimer's Website