National Plan to Address Racism & Care Disparities in Alzheimer’s Disease Care: 2022 Update

“Entrenched systemic racism” is a significant risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in non-white Americans, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) claimed in its 2022 update on how to fight the disease.

The report recommended that one way to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s is to focus on “cultural competence and equity.”

Support for clinical trial research and improved COVID-19 testing in assisted living communities, with a focus on addressing disparities and risk reduction for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, are part of the 2022 update to the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease, announced in mid-December.

The HHS’ “National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease” said black, Hispanic, and low-income populations are more likely to face health-related risk factors that contribute to Alzheimer’s and said this disparity is due to “structural inequities” that are the result of racism. Those inequities include “underinvestment in education systems, less walkable communities, decreased access to nutritious food, barriers to health care access and low quality of care in their communities.”

“This requires that addressing SDOH [social determinants of health], entrenched systemic racism, and other forms of discrimination be prioritized, rather than focusing solely on individual behaviors,” the report said.

The plan also includes an expansion of the IMPACT Collaboratory, which was funded in 2019 to deliver high-quality, evidence-based care to people living with dementia in assisted living communities, nursing homes, hospitals, and adult day centers. The update will support multiple career development and pilot and demonstration funding opportunities to support research into embedded clinical trials in assisted living communities, healthcare systems, adult day programs, nursing homes, home care and other settings.

Released in 2012, the national plan focuses on promoting rapid research on Alzheimer’s and improving the delivery of clinical care and services for affected individuals and their families. Along with promoting healthy aging and reducing risk factors, the plan targets prevention and treatment, enhanced care quality and support, increased public awareness and improved data tracking.

An action plan outlining six goals to address the challenges facing people with Alzheimer’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease-related dementias (AD/ADRD), and their families, and to minimize the burden of AD/ADRD was released by the US Department of Health and Humans Services . Includes action items related to AD/ADRD data tracking, care, and support for underserved populations, including rural and tribal communities.

The update addresses disparities in Alzheimer’s care as well. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the chance of developing dementia is not equal among Americans. Black and Latino Americans are more likely to develop the condition, as are people with risk factors including high blood pressure, diabetes or depression. HHS also noted that Native American and Asian American adults living with Alzheimer’s disease are less likely to receive timely diagnoses.

The national plan is updated annually with input from a variety of federal agencies as well as recommendations from the NAPA Advisory Council on Alzheimer’s Research, Care, and Services

View plan here.

Fighting Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias is a priority at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other federal agencies, across the nation, and throughout much of the world. In the United States, attention to Alzheimer’s disease took on heightened interest with passage of the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA). Signed into law in January 2011, the Act called for a coordinated National Plan to accelerate research and improve care and services for people living with Alzheimer’s and related dementias, and their families.

Efforts under the National Plan are guided by an Advisory Council on Alzheimer’s Research, Care, and Services, consisting of some of the nation’s foremost experts, convened by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. With the advisory council’s guidance and public input, the first National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease was created in 2012.

NIA Support for Recruitment in Clinical Trials

To meet the ambitious goals of the National Plan, the Alzheimer’s research community needs the participation of hundreds of thousands of people from diverse communities in clinical research. The barriers to research participation in Alzheimer’s and related dementias can be particularly high. To support the research community in recruiting and retaining a broader and more diverse group of participants in research, NIA has developed a number of research recruitment resources for wide adaption and use by Alzheimer’s researchers. Learn more about participating in Alzheimer’s and related dementias research.

The plan lays out six ambitious goals to both prevent future cases of Alzheimer’s and related dementias and to better meet the needs of the millions of American families currently facing these diseases:

  • Prevent and effectively treat Alzheimer’s and related dementias by 2025
  • Enhance care quality and efficiency
  • Expand support for people with Alzheimer’s and related dementias and their families
  • Enhance public awareness and engagement
  • Improve data to track progress
  • Accelerate action to promote healthy aging and reduce risk factors for Alzheimer’s and related dementias

NIH Research Summits

The National Institute on Aging (NIA), which oversees NIH research on Alzheimer’s, led the development of implementation research milestones in collaboration with the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and other NIH Institutes, Centers, and Offices, as well as with extensive input from a variety of sources and perspectives outside of NIH. Central to this process are a series of research summits organized by NIH that bring together leading experts and innovators from academia, industry, and advocacy groups.

NIH leads the research effort on the first goal, targeted at preventing and treating the disease. Updated annually, the research component of the National Plan is a collaborative, evolving framework. It outlines the basic, translational, and clinical research needed to understand and conquer Alzheimer’s and related dementias. In support of the research goals of the Plan, NIH embarked on an ambitious strategic planning process that engaged key stakeholders and resulted in the development of implementation milestones and success criteria.

View the Alzheimer’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease-Related Dementias Research Implementation Milestones database.

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