The dreaded disease that has stricken millions of suffering victims, threatens millions more and could exact a projected financial cost of over $1 trillion a year by 2050 was the topic of the first ever congressional hearing on the U.S. and global crisis of Alzheimer's disease.
"We seem to be at a precipice now of making great strides on several different fronts," said Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), the chairman of the House subcommittee which oversees global health issues, who with Rep. Edward J. Markey (MA-07) co-chairs the Bipartisan, Bicameral Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer's Disease. "There is a greater recognition, including in low and middle income countries of the need to address Alzheimer's as a major public health crisis. We need to pressure international institutions responsible for health issues to recognize dementia as a global health problem."
The hearing was entitled "Global Strategies to Combat the Devastating Health and Economic Impacts of Alzheimer's Disease." Over five million Americans suffer from the debilitating disease. Some experts estimate that Alzheimer's cost Americans over $170 billion annually.
Dr. Richard Hodes, Director, National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health, led off the first of two panels which spelled out the immense tasks ahead. He said that globally at least 24 million people suffer from the disease --some estimates are much higher--and the figure is expected to double every 20 years. By 2050, an estimated 80 million people will have Alzheimer's, including 16 million in the U.S.
"Although geographic, language, and cultural differences exist within the international research community, we share an important goal: the reduction, and eventual elimination, of the devastation brought on by Alzheimer's disease," said Hodes.
Smith and Markey coordinated a June 15 letter signed by 28 Members of Congress calling on the United Nation to include Alzheimer's disease in the program of a September international health conference dubbed a "Summit on Non-Communicable Diseases." Click here to view the June 15 letter to the U.N.
"It is our hope that the United Nations will realize that Alzheimer's disease is too costly for the global community to be ignored," said Markey, who attended and spoke at today's hearing. "We must work together, learn together, and plan together, if we are going to be able to adequately serve our world's aging population."
The National Alzheimer's Project Act (NAPA), co-authored by Markey and Smith was signed into law in January. Smith and Markey, introduced HR 4689 to create the National Alzheimer's Project that will now coordinate government-wide efforts to prevent and treat the disease and create a national strategy for defeating Alzheimer's.
NAPA directs that the National Alzheimer's Project will be located in the Office of the Secretary, Department of Health and Human Services, and establishes an Advisory Committee of private and federal experts to work with the Secretary to comprehensively assess and address Alzheimer's research, institutional services and home and community-based care.
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