Across the country, state and local public health departments are taking action to fight to end Alzheimer’s. One trusted resource they use is The Healthy Brain Initiative: The Public Health Road Map for State and National Partnerships. This guidebook, jointly developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Alzheimer’s Association, equips the public health workforce to address cognitive impairment, promote healthy aging, and meet the needs of caregivers in their communities.

Here in D.C., we’re working to help these state and local departments become even more effective through the bipartisan Building Our Largest Dementia (BOLD) Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act (S. 2076 / H.R. 4256).

Former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher calls Alzheimer’s “the most under-recognized threat to public health in the 21st century.” The Healthy Brain Initiative Road Map offers state and local public health departments a menu of 35 actions they can take to face this threat. More and more public health agencies are taking these bold steps to improve the lives of people impacted by dementia. Highlights include:

  • The first-ever nationwide dataset on subjective cognitive decline through the use of the Cognitive Module in the annual Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) surveys;
  • A multi-layered brain health awareness campaign — Take Brain Health to Heart — designed to reach rural and ethnic minority groups, encouraging the public to be more active, eat better, and reduce their risk for cognitive decline;
  • Training for first responders to compassionately and effectively serve people living with dementia in situations involving wandering, disasters and other emergencies, abuse and neglect, and risky driving;
  • Physician outreach to increase early detection and diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or other cognitive impairment; and
  • Expanded caregiver and clinical supports to help families impacted by Alzheimer’s receive a diagnosis, care consultation, and plan for future medical and social service needs.

The BOLD Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act provides an unprecedented opportunity to greatly expand the reach and impact of the Road Map by establishing Alzheimer’s Centers for Excellence across the country and by providing more funding for state, local and tribal public health agencies. This enhanced federal support will allow public health officials to increase early detection and diagnosis, promote brain health, prevent avoidable hospitalizations, and mitigate health disparities for the millions of Americans living with dementia.

Because Alzheimer’s is the only leading cause of death in the United States that cannot currently be prevented, cured, or even slowed, it will take a bold public health approach to change the trajectory of this disease. Join me in encouraging Congress to strengthen our public health infrastructure by enacting S. 2076 / H.R. 4256 — Building Our Largest Dementia Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act — this year.