U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has released a national plan to fight Alzheimer’s disease. The plan was called for in the National Alzheimer’s Project Act, which President Barack Obama signed into law in January 2011. The National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease sets forth five goals, including the development of prevention and treatment approaches for Alzheimer’s and related dementias by 2025.
In February, the administration announced that it would take immediate action to implement parts of the plan, including making additional funding available in fiscal year (FY) 2012 to support research, provider education and public awareness.
On May 15, Sebelius announced additional specific actions, including the funding of two major clinical trials, jumpstarted by the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) infusion of additional FY 2012 funds directed at Alzheimer’s disease; the development of training and information for U.S. clinicians; and a public education campaign and website to help families and caregivers find the services and support they need.
To help accelerate this work, the proposed FY 2013 budget provides a $100 million increase for efforts to combat Alzheimer’s disease. These funds will support additional research ($80 million), improve public awareness of the disease ($4.2 million), support provider education programs ($4 million), invest in caregiver support ($10.5 million) and improve data collection ($1.3 million).
The plan, presented May 15 at the Alzheimer’s Research Summit 2012: Path to Treatment and Prevention , was developed with input from experts in aging and Alzheimer’s disease issues and calls for a comprehensive, collaborative approach across federal, state, private and non-profit organizations. More than 3,600 people or organizations submitted comments on the draft plan.
The new initiatives include:
- Research: The funding of new research projects by the NIH will focus on areas in which emerging technologies and new approaches in clinical testing enable improved assessment of the disease. This research holds considerable promise for developing and targeted approaches to prevention and treatment. Specifically, two major clinical trials are being funded. One is a $7.9 million effort to test an insulin nasal spray for treating Alzheimer’s disease. A second study, toward which NIH is contributing $16 million, is the first prevention trial in those at highest risk for the disease.
- Tools for clinicians: The Health Resources and Services Administration has awarded $2 million in funding through its geriatric education centers to provide training for doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers on recognizing the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and how to manage the disease.
- Easier access to information to support caregivers: HHS’ new website, alzheimers.gov, offers resources and support to those facing Alzheimer’s disease and their friends and family. The site is a gateway to information from federal, state and private organizations. Visitors to the site will find plain language information and tools to identify local resources that can help with the challenges of daily living, emotional needs and financial issues related to dementia. Video interviews with real family caregivers explain why information is key to successful caregiving.
- Awareness campaign: The first new television advertisement encouraging caregivers to seek information at the new website was debuted. This media campaign will be launched this summer for family members and patients.
In 2013, the National Family Caregiver Support Program will provide services to family caregivers, including those helping loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease. This program will enable family caregivers to receive respite services, providing them a short break from caregiving duties, along with other services, such as counseling, education and support groups.