Alzheimer's Association response to president’s Fiscal Year 2009 budget proposal
We are disappointed that President Bush's 2009 budget proposal continues to underestimate the vital hope that scientific research offers American families facing debilitating and fatal diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. It continues the dangerous trend of underfunding important medical research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the scientific enterprise that our health care system relies on to find effective treatments and cures.
As many as 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s today, and the numbers will triple in the next few decades unless we find a way to stop the disease. In just three short years, the first of the 78 million baby boomers will begin to turn 65 and enter the age of greatest risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. For an already overtaxed health care system fraught with skyrocketing costs – the federal government cannot afford an Alzheimer epidemic. It will bankrupt Medicare, Medicaid and scores of families.
The federal government must adopt policies that head off this looming crisis now. Accelerating medical research for Alzheimer’s will actually save the government in the long term.
Without an effective blueprint and a serious financial investment to deal with the Alzheimer epidemic facing the country, the nation’s health and long term care systems will not be able to provide sufficient support for the emerging baby boomer population. It is more urgent than ever that we accelerate investment in critical scientific research. In fact, in proclaiming November National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, the president himself called on the nation to, “renew our commitment to finding a cure to end this devastating disease.” The administration’s proposed budget proposal is far from what is necessary to make this a reality and succeeds only in bringing the crisis to our doorstep sooner.
In the last decade, scientists have made tremendous progress in diagnostics, genetics, and treatments but the shrinking investment of federal dollars is reversing these strides. For the sixth year in a row, the proposed research funding doesn’t even keep up with medical inflation. More importantly, it doesn’t foster the necessary environment to bring disease-modifying treatments on the threshold of discovery to the people that need them the most. More and more highly rated research proposals are being left on the table as costs for care and services continue to escalate.
In this economic climate, we know there are financial concerns facing the nation and this is why it is even more important to make sound fiscal decisions. Investing in research to end Alzheimer's is one of the most prudent decisions that the government can make. It not only saves lives, it saves money by reducing the burden on Medicare and Medicaid programs, not to mention reducing costs for business and for individual families. Our government has made such wise and informed choices in the past with great success.
Recent data from a public opinion poll commissioned by the Alzheimer's Association shows that the public is more supportive of candidates who support increases in Alzheimer research funding. Alzheimer advocates across the country are mobilized, galvanized and focused on pushing the government to aggressively pursue an end to this insidious disease. Determined to make their voices heard and their vote count, these Alzheimer's Champions will continue to spread the word among their neighbors, write letters, send e-mails and on May 14, they will bring directly to lawmakers on Capitol Hill this message: Alzheimer’s disease must be addressed and funded as a national priority.
There is real potential for a better future, one where Alzheimer’s disease is no longer a death sentence but a manageable, treatable disease that affects far fewer people – people who will continue to lead productive and meaningful lives. How fast we are able to find effective treatments to achieve this future is directly tied to how much we are willing to invest today.
The Alzheimer's Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer care, support and research. Our mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer’s.
Want to learn how you can take action on this and other advocacy issues? Become an Alzheimer Advocate today.
Alzheimer's Association, Washington Public Policy Office
Associate Director of Public Relations