A strong, competent and robust health care and public health workforce is essential to address the rising tide of Alzheimer's and other dementias. Public health professionals play a role in educating other health and health care professionals (PDF). 

Educating health care professionals: What public health can do

In working with health care professionals, examples of public health could:

  • Ensure that health care providers — including primary and specialty care clinicians — are trained to recognize the early warning signs of cognitive impairment, advise patients how they may reduce the risk of cognitive decline and possibly of dementia, and refer families affected by dementia for care and support services.
  • Conduct outreach to health care professionals about the importance of promoting caregivers' health and supporting their role in managing dementia. At the same time, public health can ensure that professionals are able to teach their caregiver-patients how to safely care for someone living with dementia.
  • Educate providers about the importance of care planning. Clinicians can be reimbursed for providing comprehensive care planning services to individuals with cognitive impairment. Reimbursable under CPT® billing code 99483, care planning services include cognitive and safety evaluations, a caregiver interview and planning for palliative care needs.  
  • Train health care professionals on the importance of early detection and diagnosis. Training should include when and how to perform cognitive assessments, and how to document and disclose a diagnosis.
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Educating the public health workforce: What public health can do

To educate the public health workforce, examples of public health action include:

  • Training public health workers on the life-course approach to dementia. Public health interventions that address dementia can occur at any age. 
  • Regularly sharing data related to cognitive health, dementia and caregiving with the public health workforce. Consider the state-specific data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) Cognitive Decline and Caregiver modules, state or local needs assessments, and hospital and health systems data. 
  • Ensuring the public health workforce understands the basics of Alzheimer’s and other dementias, why Alzheimer’s is a public health issue, and how public health can intervene to help reduce risk, enhance early detection, and improve safety and quality of care.
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State success: Training professionals in Utah and Colorado

The Utah Department of Health trained hundreds of health professionals, caregivers and people living with dementia about effective communication strategies for people with cognitive impairment and ways to promote independence. Read the case study to learn more. 

In Colorado, the Department of Public Health and Environment partnered with the Alzheimer's Association to provide training to Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel about the unique communication and behavioral challenges posted by cognitive impairment and dementia. Read the full case study to learn more.

 


Education resources for health care professionals

The American College of Preventive Medicine (ACPM) created an online course for physicians about the benefits of addressing blood pressure management as a way to reduce the risk of cognitive decline.

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Education resources for public health professionals

  • Community Health Workers: A Resource for Healthy Aging and Addressing Dementia (PDF) explores how community health workers (CHWs) can promote healthy aging and help address some of the challenges related to Alzheimer's and all dementia. It also includes examples of state health department initiatives to train and support CHWs as they educate their communities about healthy aging and cognitive health, provide supportive services, encourage early detection of cognitive impairment and dementia, and help caregivers for people living with dementia access available support.
  • A Public Health Approach to Alzheimer's and Other Dementias is available for use by public health schools and public health professionals. It is a free, introductory curriculum intended to increase awareness of the impact of Alzheimer's and other dementias as well as the role of public health in addressing this crisis.
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Featured Resources

Alzheimer's Association & Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Planning for Action: Initial Steps for implementing the Healthy Brain Initiative Road Map
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dissemination Guide
Health Resources and Services Administration Training Curriculum: Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias

 
Health Professionals Education Resources
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Health Professionals Education Implementation
State:

AZ Arizona Department of Health Services With partners, Arizona Department of Health Services conducted a comprehensive needs assessment of people living dementia and caregivers in the state, assessed providers to identify gaps in existing services and supports for people living with dementia and caregivers, and developed a three-pronged approach to address these issues
CA California Department of Public Health Issued six competitive grants of $750,000 each to local health departments to implement actions of the Healthy Brain Initiative Road Maps — the local health departments funded are: Shasta, Placer, Sacramento, Santa Clara, Los Angeles and San Diego
CA California Department of Public Health California Department of Public Health included Alzheimer’s data in its annual county health status profiles report
CA City of San Diego City of San Diego published a city-wide evaluation of their dementia-readiness
CA San Diego County San Diego County Health & Human Services Department released report on Alzheimer’s disease in San Diego County
DC District of Columbia Department of Health DC Department of Health conducted a comprehensive needs assessment of existing dementia services to identify service and workforce gaps
FL Florida Department of Health Incorporated Alzheimer’s disease into the State Health Improvement Plan, which guides how FDOH and its partners will improve the health of Floridians.
GA Georgia Department of Public Health Georgia Department of Public Health analyzed surveillance data to describe the prevalence of Alzheimer’s and related dementias among Georgia Medicare beneficiaries, including the overall burden, disparities, and impact on service utilization and related costs.
IL Illinois Department of Public Health Developed and deployed dementia-specific training for all direct care workers in residential settings, and in home- and community-based settings. IL DPH hosts training and monitors compliance across the state.
MN Minnesota Department of Health Developed a framework to identify high-risk communities with data analyses, help prioritize resources, and expand cognitive health partnerships throughout the health department.
MN Minnesota Department of Health Informed efforts to make communities more supportive of people living with dementia and their caregivers by integrating cognitive and caregiver surveillance data and related resources into county fact sheets; MDH prioritized counties that have a high proportion of at-risk older adults.
MN Chisago County Public Health Department Chisago County Public Health Department supported training of local law enforcement officers and first responders on how to effectively communicate with and serve people with dementia.
MN City of Northfield (MN) Conducted a community-wide assessment of community organizations, nursing homes, and health systems to identify needs and gaps in services/supports and to determine what existing resources could be used to fill gaps.
NC Department of Health and Human Services North Carolina’s Disease Event Tracking and Epidemiologic Collection Tool (NC DETECT), part of the state’s public health surveillance system, was used to analyze five years of data to obtain rates of emergency department visits with a dementia diagnosis
OR Oregon Department of Human Services Adding Years to Life and Life to Years: A case study of public health's contribution to healthy aging in Oregon
RI Rhode Island Department of Health Established a new program — Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders — within the Rhode Island Department of Health to better assess and track state progress on risk reduction of cognitive decline and meeting the needs of people with dementia.
UT Utah Department of Health Utah Department of Health featured Alzheimer’s and related dementias and their impact on the state in its May 2016 Monthly Health Status Update for public health professionals and stakeholders.
WA Washington State Depatment of Health Washington State Department of Health participated on webinar about their whole agency approach to engage the entire agency on cognitive health, dementia, and caregiving