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We Can’t Wait: Taking Action on Alzheimer’s Disease

In response to an aging population and a disease that afflicts 5.1 million Americans – devastating the lives of the individuals suffering from it and placing strain on their families and loved ones – the Administration proposes a historic $156 million investment to combat Alzheimer's disease.

Alzheimer’s disease, which today afflicts as many as 5.1 million people in the United States, devastates the lives of individuals suffering from the disease and places tremendous physical, emotional, and financial strain on their families and loved ones. We can’t wait to act. As the population of the United States ages, the time for bold action on the growing public health challenge posed by Alzheimer’s is now.

This week, we proposed a historic $156 million investment to tackle Alzheimer’s disease. This investment will:

  • Immediately Increase Alzheimer’s Disease Research Funding:  The National Institutes of Health (NIH) will immediately dedicate an additional $50 million from its fiscal year 2012 funding to Alzheimer’s research. 
  • Sustain and Grow the Alzheimer’s Research Investment:  The President’s fiscal year 2013 budget will include $80 million in new Alzheimer’s research funding.  Together,  fiscal years 2012 and 2013 investments total $130 million in new Alzheimer’s research funding over two years – over 25 percent more than the current annual Alzheimer’s research investment.
  • Support the Goals of the Preliminary National Alzheimer’s Disease Plan:   This initiative also includes $26 million to support additional goals in the preliminary National Alzheimer’s Disease Plan. While the plan continues to be developed, experts have identified several high-priority goals that will be supported by the announcement, including:
    • Education and outreach to improve the public’s understanding of Alzheimer’s disease starting this year;
    • Outreach to enhance health care providers’ knowledge of the disease;
    • Expanded support for Alzheimer’s patients and caregivers in the community;
    • Improved data collection and analysis to better understand Alzheimer’s disease’s impact on people with the disease, families and the health care system.

These investments build on the President’s commitment to fighting Alzheimer’s disease.In January 2011, President Obama signed the National Alzheimer's Project Act, which calls for an aggressive and coordinated national Alzheimer’s disease plan.  The Act also establishes an Advisory Council on Alzheimer's Research, Care, and Services, which brings together some of the Nation's foremost experts on Alzheimer's disease to inform the development of the national plan.

The time to take on Alzheimer’s disease is now. Without a cure or more effective treatment, Alzheimer’s is expected to grow more prevalent as the population ages. Failure to invest now will place significant strain on our nation’s health care resources in future years.  If no effective strategies are found for Alzheimer’s treatment or prevention, the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease and the annual health care costs associated with Alzheimer’s disease are projected to rise significantly in the coming years. Which is why – we can’t wait.

Kathleen Sebelius is Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.