NEW YORK, May 15, 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 release today by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services of its historic "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) passed by Congress in 2010 and signed by President Obama in January 2011. Hall is a member of the Advisory Council on Research, Care and Services that has been advising on the development of the national strategy.
"This day has been a long time coming. The release of the 'National Plan To Address Alzheimer's Disease' reflects the growing impetus among the public and policymakers to act on a disease that has been in the shadows for far too long.
We commend President Obama, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Congress for uniquely recognizing and responding to the implications of the Alzheimer's disease epidemic. Recognition is essential for action, and their courage has forged enormous opportunity.
On a personal note, it has been my greatest honor to sit on the Advisory Council on Research, Care and Services and to serve as a voice for current and future stakeholders. I commend HHS for respectfully considering the advisory council's input and incorporating recommendations into the final plan. I am also grateful that the plan includes many of AFA's key action items, especially those related to education, early detection, support services for individuals with dementia and their families, and training for healthcare professionals.
In what is the worst of times for Alzheimer's disease, given its skyrocketing incidence, the release of this historic national strategy marks one of the best of times.
The national Alzheimer's plan provides solid stepping stones toward substantial change. It offers the prospect of transforming the way our nation and the world view Alzheimer's disease, altering the trajectory of this tragic disease, and changing lives forever. It substantiates the plight of millions of Americans and validates the concerns of generations to come. For the first time, we are making progress toward defeating this public health crisis.
We are pleased that the national plan addresses the breadth of issues that families, professionals and society struggle with each and every day, and that it takes a balanced look at both scientific research and care related to Alzheimer's disease.
The goal of preventing and effectively treating Alzheimer's disease by 2025 is a laudable one, giving hope to future generations that progress can be made before they, too, face the wrath of this disease. In addition to resources, such as new funding of a major prevention study and a therapy to restore memory, the plan's emphasis on prioritizing promising therapies and compressing the pathway in bringing new drugs to market supports that hope.
We applaud HHS for its quick start on rolling out a wide-scale public education campaign and providing up-to-date training for physicians and other healthcare providers—two strategies that can help families obtain proper diagnosis and hands-on resources to navigate this heartbreaking disease.
Likewise, other concrete actions in the national plan that address education, family support services, early detection and long-term care hold the promise of tangible relief. Absent a cure, and given the countless families impacted by Alzheimer's disease between now and 2025, we have a moral obligation to see these care-related strategies come to fruition.
Moreover, we must press for even further action to ease the daily toll on American families. We need to make sure all elements of the plan are implemented and that new strategies and practices are considered. The plan is designed to be a living document, to be reviewed and revised annually. Moving forward, AFA will continue to seek input of stakeholders to ascertain which portions of the plan are working and where we need improvement. And AFA will continue to ensure that our constituents are heard during this ongoing process.
We have just begun. Our nation has an enormous responsibility to take the strides we have made thus far to the next level, and then reach even higher. We must foster the spirit of commitment and cooperation that has gotten us to this point so that we can put legs on this plan, ensure seamless implementation, and garner funding for scientific research and care.
While we must be realistic about available dollars, and about the scope of scientific mystery surrounding this disease, we cannot allow our fragile economy to threaten the justified demands of the dementia population and endanger the momentum.
Since the passage of the National Alzheimer's Project Act and the development of the national Alzheimer's plan, AFA has referred to this historic process as the 'moment' for Alzheimer's disease. Now it is the responsibility for all of us to ensure that the moment is not a fleeting one. We must pull out all the stops to engage the public and policymakers on this public health crisis. We must forge ahead and act on NAPA now so we can truly advance long-lasting change."
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