The population of older American Indians and Alaska Natives is growing quickly, leading to an increased risk for Alzheimer’s and other dementia in these populations. From 2014–2060, the number of Native Americans aged 65 and older living with dementia is projected to increase fivefold. During Native American Heritage Month, we are recognizing American Indians and Alaska Natives and their important work to raise Alzheimer’s awareness and improve health within their communities. Through public policy and public health initiatives, the Alzheimer’s Association and AIM are proud to work with them to address the Alzheimer’s and dementia crisis in our nation’s tribal communities.
During the Fiscal Year 2024 appropriations process, AIM advocated for and helped secure additional funding for the Indian Health Service (IHS). The $1.5 million in additional funding will empower IHS to renew its commitment to building tribal and urban Indian health system capacity to address Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia. The IHS Alzheimer’s Grant Program 2023 awards are an investment in locally developed models that integrate comprehensive approaches to care and service for American Indian and Alaska Native people impacted by dementia. Thanks to this funding increase, eight new awardees will join current 2022 recipients to continue creating and executing innovative models that prioritize culturally competent screening, diagnosis, and management of people living with dementia and their caregivers.
In addition, the Healthy Brain Initiative is working with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to kick off development of the next Road Map for Indian Country. The Healthy Brain Initiative (HBI) Road Map for Indian Country is a guide for American Indian and Alaska Native leaders to learn about dementia and start discussions throughout their communities. The guide highlights data from Indian Country that help define the challenge of dementia across American Indian and Alaska Native communities. Learn more about how public health professionals can help shape the public health response to Alzheimer’s and dementia in American Indian and Alaska Native communities during the public input period.
The HBI is a longstanding collaboration between the Alzheimer’s Association and CDC to advance understanding of and support for cognitive decline as a central part of public health practice. This collaboration began after Congress appropriated funds for the CDC to focus on brain health and dementia for the first time in 2005. Since that time, HBI partners have worked together to implement public health strategies that promote brain health, address dementia and help better support caregivers, including through the Road Map for Indian Country.
Family members, from the young to the old, often play a vital role in caring for relatives with dementia. As tribal health and aging leaders consider the growing problem of dementia, they can build on strengths in their cultures and traditions that provide unique opportunities to improve the lives of older adults living with dementia and their families. While much progress has been made in addressing Alzheimer’s and other dementia in tribal communities and reducing health disparities, there is more work to be done. The Alzheimer’s Association and AIM remain committed to supporting individuals impacted by Alzheimer’s and other dementia in our nation’s tribal communities.