The Alzheimer's Association's work to address Alzheimer's as a public health crisis includes guidance and tools for public health departments, the Public Health Center of Excellence in Dementia Risk Reduction, tools and resources for health systems, and the Interdisciplinary Summer Research Institute for researchers.

Healthy Brain Initiative

The Healthy Brain Initiative logoAlzheimer's is a rapidly growing public health crisis. More than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's at a cost to the nation of $321 billion in 2022. By 2050, the costs could rise to nearly $1 trillion, and nearly 13 million Americans will have Alzheimer's.

A public health crisis demands a robust public health response. The Healthy Brain Initiative (HBI) is a partnership of organizations across the country working collaboratively to improve the understanding of brain health as a central part of public health. Led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Alzheimer's Association has been a national HBI partner since its inception in 2005. It is designed to:
 
  • Increase knowledge and awareness about Alzheimer's as a public health issue.
  • Expand the understanding of the impact and burden of cognitive impairment. 
  • Advance public health strategies to address cognitive health, cognitive impairment, Alzheimer's and other dementias, and dementia caregiving.

What the HBI does

The foundational document of our work is the Healthy Brain Initiative State and Local Public Health Partnerships to Address Dementia: The 2018-2023 Road Map. This guidebook identifies 25 actions that state and local public health agencies can take to quickly and strategically address the Alzheimer's crisis. 

A companion Healthy Brain Initiative Road Map for Indian Country includes eight public health strategies that can help American Indian and Alaska Native communities begin planning their response to dementia.

For more than a decade, the HBI has worked with state Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) coordinators to collect data on subjective cognitive decline (SCD) — the earliest indication of memory issues — and on dementia caregiving. This data emphasizes the urgency of the crisis and helps public health agencies and policymakers identify actions that need to be undertaken in their particular states.

To help ensure the future public health workforce understands Alzheimer's as a public health issue, the Association and CDC have developed a free, introductory curriculum — A Public Health Approach to Alzheimer's and Other Dementias — for use by schools of public health. In addition to increasing awareness of the impact of the crisis, it is designed to increase knowledge of the role of public health in addressing it.
 

Learn more

The HBI has developed numerous additional tools and resources for state, local, and tribal public health agencies to assist their efforts in addressing Alzheimer's. Public health agencies and professionals who want to learn more — including with help on implementing the Road Map in their communities — can contact us at PublicHealth@alz.org.
 
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Public Health Center of Excellence on Dementia Risk Reduction

Public Health Center of Excellence logoThe need for effective risk reduction strategies that help all communities grows larger by the day: two-thirds of Americans have at least one major potential risk factor for dementia. Without any change, the number of Americans with Alzheimer's could more than double by mid-century.

The Alzheimer's Association Public Health Center of Excellence on Dementia Risk Reduction coordinates risk reduction efforts and helps public health agencies share best practices. Headed by the Alzheimer's Association, the Center launched in 2020 with funding from the CDC. 

 

What the Center does

The science on dementia risk reduction is quickly evolving, and major breakthroughs are within reach. For example, there is growing evidence that people who adopt healthy lifestyle habits — like regular exercise and blood pressure management — can lower their risk of dementia.

The Center translates the latest science on dementia risk reduction into actionable tools, materials and messaging that public health agencies can use to reduce dementia risk for all people — including those in diverse, underserved and higher-risk communities.

The Alzheimer's Association is working with public health agencies to promote risk reduction strategies in communities across the country. The Center offers:
 
  • One-on-one engagement with public health officials to encourage action in their communities.
  • Regional learning collaboratives to educate public health officials about dementia and build capacity for action.
  • Community convening meetings, bringing a variety of stakeholders together to drive community action.
  • Technical assistance that helps public health officials design, implement and evaluate risk reduction activities.
  • Webinars, publications and e-newsletters to spread the latest information on dementia risk reduction, effective interventions and best practices.

Learn more

Agencies or public health professionals who would like help implementing dementia risk reduction strategies in their communities can contact us at CenterOfExcellence@alz.org.
 
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Health systems change

To improve the health of the community, we must partner with health systems to improve the care they provide in that community. The Alzheimer's Association is engaging more than 300 health systems across the United States to offer proven solutions to:

  • Increase detection and diagnosis.
  • Improve health outcomes.
  • More effectively manage the cost of care for people living with dementia.

The Association partners with health systems and clinicians to improve access to timely detection and quality care. It is led by 20 regional health systems directors around the country. The work advances the Healthy People 2030 dementia goals of increasing diagnosis and disclosure of a diagnosis and of reducing preventable hospitalizations.

What we do

Our work helps health systems to adopt policies and practices to:

  • Improve health outcomes through the facilitation of timely and accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer's and other dementias, the improvement of care management, and the prevention of complications among older adults with comorbid conditions.
  • Enhance the clinical experience for people living with dementia and their caregivers by ensuring communication that provides educated answers and well-planned next steps, so that individuals and their families can access care, make financial plans and participate in clinical trials.
  • Reduce the burden on clinicians by providing clinicians with the education, training, resources and support to empower them to deliver a diagnosis and provide follow-up care through an interdisciplinary approach that optimizes the roles of the clinician and other members of the healthcare team.
  • Manage cost of care better through enhanced disease management following a diagnosis, including strategies that can prevent or reduce unnecessary hospitalizations and emergency department visits.

Get started

We offer a variety of resources to support health systems to make changes in policies and practices throughout the disease continuum, including early detection and diagnosis of Alzheimer's and other dementias, management of these conditions, and care planning and support services following a diagnosis. See the complete listing of available resources to support health systems.

Connect with us to learn more: email aelee@alz.org
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Summer Institute for Public Health Researchers

Each year, the Alzheimer’s Association holds an Interdisciplinary Summer Research Institute for 12 early career public health researchers (and 12 psychosocial researchers) to launch a career in dementia science. During the five-day program in Chicago, participants gain knowledge of Alzheimer’s and other dementias, develop basic skills in conducting research, receive one-on-one mentoring with experienced faculty, hone their own research proposals, and broaden connections and networks within the field of dementia research.

Learn more, including upcoming dates and how to apply.

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Early warning signs

An early and accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer's can improve the quality of care and life as well as reduce the financial impact of the disease. It allows an individual to explore possible treatments, maintain a level of independence longer, and participate in clinical trials that help advance research.

Yet of the more than 6 million Americans living with Alzheimer's, as many as half of them have not been diagnosed. And, evidence indicates that Black Americans and Hispanic Americans with dementia are less likely to be diagnosed than White Americans, even though they are more likely to have the disease.

Secondary prevention begins with recognizing the warning signs and symptoms of memory loss that disrupts daily life. The Alzheimer's Association has developed an evidence-based list of 10 early signs and symptoms that should prompt a conversation between the individual and his or her health care provider. In addition, a free, online course is available to understand the warning signs in greater detail.

For more information on the Association's early detection programs, contact your local Association chapter.
 
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