Our ability to provide quality care and support to underserved populations facing Alzheimer's and all other dementia is critical to changing health outcomes for these Americans. We are only reaching a fraction of people affected by this disease, and this must change. To expand our efforts, we are dedicated to bringing culturally relevant resources and information to people in their communities. Our starting point is intentional inclusion in community outreach.
New audiences are an integral part of the Alzheimer's Association volunteer outreach strategy and central to expanding care and support. Using a peer-to-peer model, the Association engages volunteers who can connect with communities, including civic, business and faith-based groups, as well as historically underserved and underrepresented populations. Over the past three years, the Association has grown its efforts to engage Asian, Black, Native Hawaiian and Hispanic volunteers, the latter of which now represent 7% of our active volunteer base.
The Association's 24/7 Helpline (800.272.3900) is available around the clock, 365 days a year. To accommodate the Helpline's nearly 240,000 annual callers, the Association offers translation services in over 200 languages. There are currently nearly 30 staff specialists and master's-level clinicians who are bilingual in English and Spanish. This past year, staff took part in additional training to help bridge language gaps for Spanish-speaking callers when discussing Alzheimer's disease, caregiving and other topics.
In 2020, the Association was selected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a Public Health Center of Excellence (PHCOE) on Dementia Risk Reduction, funded by the Building Our Largest Dementia Infrastructure (BOLD) Act.
The Association is reviewing how social determinants of health (SDOH), such as economic disadvantage, air pollution and racism, can impact Alzheimer's and dementia. Through a series of workshops and roundtables, the center has convened experts to review evidence of SDOH as risk factors for dementia and potential public health solutions to address these disparities.
The Alzheimer's and Dementia Care Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO) program is a free, interactive learning model designed to help clinicians and professional care providers in underserved and rural communities more accurately diagnose and treat Alzheimer's and other dementias. Connecting clinicians and professional care providers with dementia care experts via video conferencing, Project ECHO supports the delivery of dementia care and support that is culturally, linguistically and age appropriate. Of the primary care clinics that have completed a long-term Project ECHO education series, 21% are based in rural communities, and 19% are Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC), which provide care to underserved populations.
The Association's health systems initiative is designed to strengthen relationships with clinics and health systems nationwide in order to improve quality of care and increase early and accurate diagnosis. Working by region, health systems directors are also partnering with FQHC to deliver quality dementia care and support to underrepresented communities. By collaborating with the FQHC to develop strategies and solutions, the Association is helping to reach priority populations and increase equitable access to care.
African Methodist Episcopal Church
The Alzheimer's Association and the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church International Health Commission joined together four years ago with a shared goal: to better serve Black/African American communities and pursue equity in care and support for all those facing Alzheimer's and all other dementia. Black Americans are about two times as likely as White Americans to be living with Alzheimer's or another dementia but less likely to receive a diagnosis. The partnership focuses on grassroots engagement to make significant strides toward sharing care and support services, promoting research and advocacy opportunities, and offering disease education to AME Church members.
The partnership's pinnacle is Connectional Purple Sunday, an Alzheimer's and dementia education and awareness program held annually on the third Sunday in March. On this day, AME Church leaders guide members through a powerful program that highlights the importance of participating in clinical trials and Alzheimer's advocacy efforts, and shares information on care and support resources.
Churches are encouraged to partner with local Association chapters in hosting their own Purple Sunday events. More than 5,000 members have participated in Connectional Purple Sunday since our partnership began.
"The stigma around the topic of Alzheimer's disease and dementia often prevents African Americans from discussing the topic. Our members value messages from the pulpit and the work of this partnership has resulted in greater awareness, increased advocacy and a better understanding of the importance of participating in research," said Roslyn Thibodeaux Goodall, chairperson of AME's National Partnership Steering Committee. Bishop Francine Brookins of the 18th Episcopal District added, "The powerful partnership between us gives our pastors and parishioners access to the vast resources available through the Alzheimer's Association, and helps the Association curate culturally competent responses to address this devastating disease."
In 2022, the Association and AME Church renewed their partnership for five years. With this news comes continued opportunities to engage more than 2 million U.S.-based church community members.