NEW YORK, Feb. 22, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is a statement by Eric J. Hall, president and CEO of the Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA), in response to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' release today of its "Draft National Plan To Address Alzheimer's Disease." The nation's first National Alzheimer's Plan is mandated under the National Alzheimer's Project Act (NAPA) enacted last January. Hall is a member of the Advisory Council on Research, Care and Services that is advising on the development of the national strategy.
"'The Draft National Plan To Address Alzheimer's Disease' responds to many of the challenges and includes many of the solutions that the Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA) highlighted in its 'No Time to Waste' report of recommendations for an integrated national plan to overcome Alzheimer's disease. Bold yet realistic strategies that address research, clinical care, education, family support services and long-term care are the key to a transformative plan that will change the course of this disease and offer hope to countless families.
"Given the current economic environment that limits much-needed resources and the scientific unknowns of this disease, we believe that defeating Alzheimer's disease will likely happen in a series of small victories. The release of the draft plan is one of these victories, marking a major step toward a strategy to prevent, delay and ultimately cure Alzheimer's disease as well as ease the caregiving toll for American families.
"AFA applauds HHS for making tremendous efforts and headway in capturing the unprecedented opportunity afforded by the National Alzheimer's Project Act to address the multiple challenges of Alzheimer's disease. As well, we reiterate our appreciation of the Obama Administration's historic $156 million investment that will enable immediate action on ideas developed through the national plan.
"As we have collaborated with federal officials on a national plan, our goal has been to ensure that all stakeholders' needs are met. We are pleased that the draft plan includes solid education and care-related strategies in addition to aggressive research initiatives. Meeting daily care-related challenges and costs are critical aspects of coping with Alzheimer's disease now as we all await realization of the plan's goal 'to develop effective prevention and treatment modalities by 2025.'
"Now, we need to stay focused, to stay at it, to keep raising our voices so that our population gets the funding it deserves and that this plan sees the light of day. Now, more than ever, we need to rally around the cause. We're in position to move the ball. Implementing the plan is as critical as writing it.
"The draft plan reflects many of AFA's key messages and advocacy efforts, and, moreover, addresses the central and critical needs of caregivers, professionals and researchers. Actions that particularly stand out include calls for:
- designing and conducting national education and outreach initiatives and resources to educate and support all segments of the dementia population, including those with young-onset, ethnic populations and those in crisis situations;
- increasing enrollment in clinical trials, with an eye on ethnic representation;
- speeding up the process of bringing pharmacological treatments to market;
- improving training of healthcare professionals and the direct-care workforce;
- including Alzheimer's disease in HHS' Long-Term Care Awareness Campaign so families can appropriately plan ahead; and
- monitoring and reducing inappropriate use of anti-psychotics in nursing homes.
"In addition, the draft plan takes a serious look at the importance of early detection—a focal point of AFA's awareness and education efforts. A comprehensive education effort that targets healthcare providers, including information about the detection of cognitive impairment requirement in the new Medicare annual wellness exam; identifying and disseminating appropriate assessment tools; and linking newly-diagnosed individuals and their families with appropriate support services can make headway toward addressing the current missteps related to under-diagnosis and under-support.
"One of our ongoing concerns is the financial burden of Alzheimer's disease on American families. While many of the actions in this blueprint may help reduce the toll over the long-term, we believe some additional steps related to costs to providers and caregivers may be worthy of consideration and could make a substantial difference immediately.
"We will be reviewing the draft plan more closely over the coming weeks, especially to pinpoint any other challenges that may warrant discussion. We look forward to working with HHS, other government agencies and the White House as well as our member organizations and our constituents to support HHS' calls to action, build in additional strategies, and realize the full execution of a comprehensive and viable plan that attacks this public health crisis head-on.
"On a personal note, the release of the Draft National Alzheimer's Plan coincidentally aligns with the very day that AFA is celebrating its tenth anniversary. Our national organization was founded to fill a gap in care-related programs and services, and over the past decade we've proudly made enormous and meaningful strides to improve quality of life for countless families and, moreover, to help propel Alzheimer's disease out of the shadows.
"Today, with the strong commitment of federal leaders and louder outcry from the public, the urgency of the Alzheimer's disease crisis is being recognized and acted upon. There is no doubt that this is the 'moment' for Alzheimer's disease. All Americans are anxiously waiting for this moment to transform into a monumental life-changer for families affected by Alzheimer's disease now and in the future. There is no time to waste. And it is up to all of us to raise our voices louder than ever to ensure that we keep moving forward on this historic opportunity."
The Alzheimer's Foundation of America, based in New York, is a national nonprofit 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 by licensed social workers via a toll-free hot line and Skype, educational materials, a National Memory Screening Day initiative, 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.
SOURCE Alzheimer's Foundation of America