Add Your Voice in Advocating for Alzheimer's Funding to Legislators
Recently I had a conversation with someone who just got back from Washington, D.C. after her first effort to lobby her legislators for a specific action. She told me that she had no idea how important it was to let legislators know what you think and how easy it is to actually contact them.
That got me thinking that I needed to encourage readers to follow my friend's lead in taking that step into learning about policy and lobbying. And the time is ripe to do so now.
That's because of the recent announcement that President Barack Obama has put an additional $100 million in his 2014 budget to be used in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease and the implementation of the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s disease. These funds will be used for research, awareness, education, outreach and caregiver support.
"In addition to the human suffering caused by the disease, Alzheimer's is creating an enormous financial strain on the health care system, families and the federal budget," said Harry Johns, President and CEO of the Alzheimer's Association, said in a statement. "Last year's creation of the first-ever National Alzheimer's Plan with coordinated, measurable outcomes was a critical step, but unless there are resources to implement the Plan and the will to abide by it, we cannot hope to make sufficient progress."
I am thankful that the president increased the amount of funding he’s requesting, but I don’t think it’s enough. Just look at a 2012 CNN story that reported that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was spending approximately $450 million a year on research into Alzheimer’s disease. In comparison, the NIH was spending $3 billion on AIDS research, $4.3 billion on heart disease and $5.8 billion on cancer. And the good news is that spending these funds over the years has made a difference. For instance, the American Heart Association reported, “Because of research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the death rate for heart disease in the U.S. has decreased by more than 60 percent since 1940, and 70 percent for stroke in the same time period.”
The disproportionate nature of federal funding is especially striking in the wake of the recent study that found that the direct cost of Alzheimer’s and other dementias in the United States is actually greater than any other health condition, including cancer and heart disease. And the Alzheimer’s Association points out that the cost for caring for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias will cost $20 trillion over the next four decades, which is “enough to pay off the national debt and still send $10,000 to every man, woman and child in America.” Furthermore, two thirds of this $20 trillion will be paid by Medicare and Medicaid.
So it’s really important that everyone who is touched by Alzheimer’s or dementia – whether you have been diagnosed with the disease or are a caregiver, health care professional, or just someone who is worried about what may coming down the road health-wise for yourself – to learn more about issues related to Alzheimer's and also regularly contact legislators to encourage their support for increased funding.
So how can you do that?
One easy way is to use some of the major associations' email programs to your congressman. For instance, US Against Alzheimer’s has developed a message that you can automatically send to your area’s representative as well as to your state’s two senators. Plus, the system automatically identifies who these people are (and their email address) so you don’t have to do that research. Once you’ve finished sending the note, you can post it to Facebook and Twitter to encourage your followers to send a similar message to their legislators. You also have the option to email a note asking your friends to contact their representatives.
In addition, the Alzheimer’s Association offers people the chance to sign up to be an advocate. In this role, people are asked to do the following: make calls and write letters in order to encourage elected officials to take action; stay on top of policy and legislative issues through receiving alerts and updates; and work to elevate Alzheimer’s into a cause. In addition, the Alzheimer’s Association can help arrange a meeting with members of Congress if you’re travelling to Washington, D.C. This will enable you to provide information first-hand to your representatives.
Primary Sources for This Sharepost:
Alzheimer’s Association. (nd). Advocacy.
American Heart Association. (2013). Federal research funding issues.
News Medical. (2013). Alzheimer’s Association lauds Obama administration for dedicating additional $100M to fight Alzheimer’s.
Silverleib, A. (2012). Obama to boost Alzheimer’s research funding. CNN.com.