Increase in Alzheimer’s funding offers hope

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Special to the Recorder

These are times when it’s exceptionally hard to make sense of what is happening in our government. It’s even harder to find a silver lining. But, there are glimmering slivers of hope this month and a reason to cautiously celebrate some victories in our legislature.

Congress included a $400 million increase in Alzheimer’s research funding at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and is expected to approve it this week. With this action, Alzheimer’s research funding by the federal government will reach nearly $1.4 billion. This nearly threefold increase over five years in NIH funding for Alzheimer’s disease is a monumental accomplishment and a bipartisan effort. Most importantly, it provides Alzheimer’s researchers with the resources they so urgently need to one day prevent, treat and hopefully cure Alzheimer’s – the sixth leading cause of death in our country and the only top 10 leading cause of death without a prevention, treatment or cure.

Alzheimer’s currently has a hold of 5.4 million Americans and 520,000 Floridians according to the Alzheimer’s Association Facts and Figures Report released in March of this year. State estimates suggest approximately 31,000 residents of Northeast Florida are living with Alzheimer’s. These statistics place our state and our communities at “ground zero” for this healthcare epidemic.

With crises like these in our families, our districts and our country, there aren’t many people thanking members of Congress these days. So, it’s important to take a moment out when something splendid happens in Washington. Congressman Al Lawson, a new member of Congress for Florida District 5, really listened to his constituents and immediately asked to become a champion of the Alzheimer’s effort by joining the Alzheimer’s Congressional Bipartisan Task Force, co-sponsoring the Palliative Care and Hospice Education Act (PCHETA) Bill and supporting a vital research funding increase during a volatile and pivotal congressional budget process. Knowing that African Americans are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s and that women make up two-thirds of the population living with the disease, he moved quickly with his support.

In the face of what feels like a lot of losses in our government, this unprecedented and generous collaboration celebrates a “win” for American health care. There is much more to accomplish in the world of Alzheimer’s and dementia, but today, many thanks to Congressman Lawson for propelling us further down the path to one day end this disease.

Kay Redington is the CEO of the Central and North Florida Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association.

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