FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | June 23, 2011
Alzheimer’s Foundation of America Urges Congress to Take Immediate Action to Tackle Worldwide Alzheimer’s Disease Crisis
Congressional Testimony Points to Need for Collaboration, Sharing Best Practices
NEW YORK, NY—Eric J. Hall, founding president and chief executive officer of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America and the Alzheimer’s Foundation International, presented Congressional testimony today that called on the United States and countries worldwide to step up now to tackle Alzheimer’s disease and to collaboratively develop a “global approach to this pandemic.”
Hall said his involvement in the cause is “the painful result” of the many stories he hears from struggling families.
“I need to do something now, we need to do something now—and I beg you to make the most of the present opportunity and make it happen now,” he declared.
He made his remarks at an historic hearing on “Global Strategies to Combat the Devastating Health and Economic Impacts of Alzheimer’s Disease” before the United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa Global Health, and Human Rights.
To address the crisis, Hall called for an international meeting early next year of countries with current or planned national strategies related to Alzheimer’s disease. The gathering would “ideally consolidate how other countries have approached their plans and would produce a compendium with common threads,” as well as provide an opportunity for participants to share innovate care programs in the United States and abroad.
“A Congressional call for an international meeting is how we’ll learn more. And if we do things right, an international movement will follow,” Hall said.
He and leaders of other Alzheimer’s disease groups have also called on the United Nations General Assembly to include the brain disorder when it holds a high-level summit on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases in September.
Hall specifically cited a need to address this public health emergency here, as the United States alone faces a projected surge in the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease in line with the country’s aging population. Advanced age is the greatest known risk factor. Currently, an estimated 5.1 million Americans have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, which results in loss of memory and other intellectual functions and is the nation’s sixth leading cause of death. Worldwide, i t is estimated that 35.6 million people have dementia, and the incidence is expected to increase to 115 million by 2050.
“The National Alzheimer’s Disease Project Act passed by Congress last year was a groundbreaking first step toward the creation of a National Alzheimer’s Disease Plan in the United States,” Hall said. “However, it’s no secret that the U.S. is behind the curve of several other countries that have National Alzheimer’s Disease Plans in place or in process. We have a lot of homework to do but we can learn a lot from what has already been done overseas—both in planning and political commitment.”
In looking at the international landscape, Hall cited Melabev, a provider of care-related programs in Israel for the past 30 years, as one example of best practices in dementia care. The organization’s adult day centers and memory clubs offer a range of innovative therapeutic activities that promote dignity and focus on a person’s strengths rather than cognitive deficits.
Melabev is the founding member of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of Israel, a nonprofit organization that Hall established in January through the Alzheimer’s Foundation International (AFI). AFI is an outgrowth of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America and is working toward setting a paradigm of quality care by raising awareness, providing education, establishing programs and services that can be replicated worldwide, and advocating to make Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias a national priority in a country.
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, based in New York, is a leading national non-profit organization that unites more than 1,600 member organizations nationwide with the goal of providing optimal care and services to individuals confronting dementia, and to their caregivers and families. Its services include counseling and resource/referrals by licensed social workers via a toll-free helpline, SKYPE, live chat and e-mail, as well as educational materials, a free quarterly magazine for caregivers and professional training. For more information about AFA, call toll-free 866-AFA-8484 or visit www.alzfdn.org.
Contact: Carol Steinberg