CDC Taps Alzheimer’s Association to Lead National Effort to Slash Dementia Risk

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by Mary Chapman |

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The Alzheimer’s Association has been chosen to lead a national public health effort aimed at lowering the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.

The organization was selected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a Building Our Largest Dementia (BOLD) Public Health Center of Excellence (PHCOE) for dementia risk reduction.

To fund the effort, the CDC has granted the association approximately $3.3 million over five years. The organization is also a partner and sub-grantee for the PHCOE for dementia caregiving, led by the University of Minnesota. In that role, it will receive $60,000 the first year, followed by yet-undetermined annual amounts.

As the PHCOE for dementia risk reduction, the organization will lead efforts to translate current science into risk-reduction tools and literature that public health agencies can use, especially in diverse communities. The association will work with the agencies to implement best practices and proven strategies.

“We are honored the CDC is entrusting the Alzheimer’s Association to lead this important public health initiative,” said Harry Johns, president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association, in a press release. “Reducing the risk of cognitive decline and dementia is core to our mission. We’re excited to work with leaders in public health and dementia research to develop needed strategies and resources that can help citizens across the country reduce their risk of cognitive decline.”

Specifically, the organization will lead reviews of cutting-edge evidence of factors that may lower dementia risk, and identify best public health approaches. In addition, the initiative will develop evidence-based activities for public health agencies, and make information publicly available online.

The effort will also disseminate materials to these agencies to enable them to take steps to implement risk-reduction strategies in communities nationwide. Its impact will inform development of additional tools and best practices.

To conduct its work, the association will work with the Wake Forest School of Medicine, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, the National Association of County and City Health Officials, and Bridge Builder Strategies.

“The scientific and clinical team at Wake Forest is honored and pleased to be a partner with the Alzheimer’s Association and the CDC in this BOLD Center of Excellence,” said Jeff Williamson, MD, at Wake Forest School of Medicine. “We look forward to bringing more and more clarity about the evidence for best approaches to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia to persons with dementia, caregivers, communities and health systems.”

Cognitive decline is a common precursor to Alzheimer’s and other dementias that affect more than five million U.S. residents. There is mounting evidence suggesting that individuals may be able to mitigate their risk of cognitive decline, and possibly dementia, by adopting a lifestyle that includes physical exercise, a healthy diet, and control of risk factors such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and smoking.

“Risk reduction of cognitive decline is an important focus for the Alzheimer’s Association,” Johns added. “The current science suggests that there are actions people can take to reduce the risk of cognitive decline.”

The organization is one of three PHCOEs to be funded under the BOLD Act that, owing in part to the association’s efforts, became law in 2018. BOLD aims to create a national public health infrastructure to implement effective Alzheimer’s disease interventions that focus on risk reduction, early detection and diagnosis, and caregiver support. The PHCOE for early detection and diagnosis is led by the New York University Grossman School of Medicine.

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