Progress Being Made on National Alzheimer's Plan
I’m happy to report that there seems to be some movement in the development of the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease. As I mentioned in an earlier sharepost, the Advisory Council on Alzheimer’s Research, Care and Services has been charged with helping develop this plan. I along with many others who have been touched by Alzheimer’s disease had the opportunity to provide our input into what the plan should look like.
The draft plan, which was unveiled February 22, has five foundational goals:
- Prevent and effectively treat Alzheimer’s disease by the year 2025.
- Optimize care quality and efficiency.
- Expand supports for people with Alzheimer’s disease and their families.
- Enhance public awareness and engagement.
- Track progress and drive improvement.
The plan also includes an investment of $156 million in a three-pronged effort to fight Alzheimer’s disease. Some of these funds are being added during the 2012 fiscal year while some are being requested for the 2013 fiscal year. This three-pronged effort includes:
- The National Institutes of Health will add $50 million from its 2012 fiscal year funding to help researchers study Alzheimer’s disease. (Time.com reports that currently NIH spends approximately $450 million annually on dementia research.)
- President Barack Obama is requesting $80 million in new Alzheimer’s disease research funding in his budget for fiscal year 2013.
- An additional $26 million is being considered to support a variety of goals that have been identified in the national plan. These goals include increasing education and outreach to help healthcare providers and the public better understand this disease, expanded support for those with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers, and improved data collection and analysis to understand the impact of this disease on those who have the disease, their families, health care and long-term care systems.
Overall, I agree with what Ronald Petersen, head of the Mayo Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and a member of the advisory council, who told the Wall Street Journal, “This is a great jump start, but clearly to get to that huge goal of prevention, treatment, delaying the onset [of disease] … it’s going to take a large investment.” I consider the plan’s proposed funding increase just a drop in the proverbial bucket. For instance, Time.com notes that the government spends about $3 billion on AIDS research and that 1.1 million Americans have the AIDS virus. Compare that with 5 million people who are known to have Alzheimer’s (and the prediction that 16 million will have this disease by 2050 if researchers don’t find a cure) and you can understand my reasoning.
I do, however, applaud the committee for developing the plan based on three guiding principles:
- “Optimizing existing resources and improve and coordinate ongoing activities.” This is important because a federal interagency working group identified all efforts by the federal government related to Alzheimer’s disease. This analysis will help improve coordination as well as reduce duplication of efforts. The working group also looked at new opportunities that are being created through the Affordable Care Act as well as identification of programs and resources that aren’t specific to Alzheimer’s disease, but that can be used to advance care.
- “Support public-private partnerships.” Through the plan, the Advisory Council is being used to identify specific areas in which partnerships between government and private organizations can improve outcomes.
- “Transform the way we approach Alzheimer’s disease.” The Department of Health and Human Services and other federal agencies plan to work with the Advisory Council to identify the most promising areas and then find resources both within the government and from external sources to take action on these opportunities.
The fight against Alzheimer’s definitely does need additional funding to make the critical research breakthroughs that will stop this disease. However, it’s also important to coordinate the services so that they are well-targeted and leveraged as they provide crucial support to people who already have dementia and the people who are in caregiving roles.