HHS announces effort to stymie Alzheimer’s disease

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has released what it calls an “ambitious” national plan to fight Alzheimer’s disease.

“The National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease” was called for in a January 2011 law signed by President Obama. It sets forth goals that include the development of effective prevention and treatment approaches for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias by 2025.

Implementation of parts of the plan began this past February, including additional funding for fiscal year 2012 to support research, provider education and public awareness.

Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of HHS, announced additional actions May 15, including: the funding of two major clinical trials, jumpstarted by the National Institutes of Health’s infusion of additional FY 2012 funds directed at Alzheimer’s disease; the development of high-quality, up-to-date training and information for clinicians nationwide; and a new public education campaign and website to help families and caregivers find the services and support they need.

To help accelerate this work, Obama’s 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 at the Alzheimer’s Research Summit 2012: Path to Treatment and Prevention, in Bethesda, Md., was developed with input from experts in aging and Alzheimer’s disease issues. The initiatives announced May 15 include:

• Research. The funding of new research projects by the NIH will focus on key areas in which emerging technologies and new approaches in clinical testing allow for a more comprehensive assessment of the disease. This research holds considerable promise for developing new and targeted approaches to prevention and treatment, according to HHS.

Specifically, two major clinical trials are being funded: a $7.9 million effort to test an insulin nasal spray for treating Alzheimer’s disease; and the use of a drug that attacks amyloid in an international study that includes people genetically predisposed to develop the disease early.

• Tools for clinicians. The Health Resources and Services Administration has awarded $2 million in funding through its geriatric education centers to provide high-quality training for nurses, physicians and other healthcare providers on recognizing the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and how to manage the disease.

• Easier access to information for caregivers. A new website, www.alzheimers.gov, offers resources and support to those facing Alzheimer’s disease and their friends and family members. The site is a gateway to comprehensive information from federal, state and private organizations on a range of topics.

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 caregivers explain why information is key to successful caregiving, in their own words.

• Awareness campaign. The first new television advertisement encouraging caregivers to seek information at the new website was shown at the summit. This media campaign will launch this summer, reaching family members and patients in need of information on Alzheimer’s disease.

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