Alzheimer’s Association, AME Church Join to Promote Disease Awareness and Support

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by Mary Chapman |

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The Alzheimer’s Association and the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME Church) announced a three-year partnership to promote greater involvement in the fight against Alzheimer’s (AD) and to heighten awareness of the support needed by patients and their families.

Through the leadership of its International Health Commission, the AME Church and the organization will seek to engage the U.S.-based denomination’s more than 2 million members in initiatives that include advocacy, fundraising, research, volunteer activities, and diversity outreach. The focus will be on communities the AME Church serves.

“The Alzheimer’s Association is pleased to join with the AME Church to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and to engage its members in the fight against Alzheimer’s,” Rey Martinez, the organization’s chief diversity and inclusion officer, said in a press release.

“This important partnership will help extend the Alzheimer’s Association’s reach into communities served by the AME Church, providing more families care and support services, while engaging church members in all our work to end Alzheimer’s.”

African-Americans are about twice as likely as whites to have AD or other forms of dementia, and are less likely to be diagnosed  for earlier treatment and essential planning. A 2013 report by the African American  Network Against Alzheimer’s links the disease to health factors including environmental, heart disease, behavioral, and socioeconomic status.

Blacks make up about 13 percent of the U.S. population, but bear about one-third of the nation’s total costs of Alzheimer’s and other dementia, the report also noted.

A goal of this partnership is to make AME Church members and their communities aware of important information about the disease, who is at risk, and why early diagnosis is key.

“I know how devastating this disease can be,” said Bishop Harry L. Seawright, president of the Council of Bishops and Chairman of the Commission on Health, AME Church. “My mother passed away 13 years ago from Alzheimer’s, and my sister, who is one of my biggest cheerleaders, has dementia. So, for me, it’s very personal. It’s important that we connect our community with information about Alzheimer’s and where people can go for help.”

Seawright added that many in AME community have risk factors like hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes.

“We want to encourage our community to learn more so they can reduce the risk,” he said. “We also want to support our caregivers, who struggle with such loss, including a caregiver who may no longer remember them.”

For starters, the AME Church is posting educational organization materials about Alzheimer’s and support resources on its Health Commission website.

During the partnership’s first year, the focus will be on involving AME Church members in efforts in areas including disease awareness, care and support, and research and scientific opportunities. The initiative will also seek to recruit volunteers for activities and program delivery, and to have AMC Church members participate in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s and related community events.

“We intend for this to be a robust partnership,” Martinez said. “We want AME Church members to be engaged in every aspect of the Alzheimer’s Association mission. The AME Church is an influential voice and has been a proven champion for so many faith-based issues. We’re proud to join with it in the fight against Alzheimer’s.”