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Raising Awareness Is Key To Progress on Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s takes a tremendous toll on America’s seniors. This year alone, Alzheimer’s and other dementias will cost $321 billion—and that figure will balloon to nearly $1 trillion by 2050. But new treatments and technologies hold the potential to transform care, easing the tremendous suffering and financial burden of this disease. To realize that potential, U.S Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) argues that we must continue to prioritize and fund Alzheimer’s research.

Writing in the The Dallas Morning News, Rep. Johnson draws on her experience as a nurse to highlight the human impact of Alzheimer’s disease:

This debilitating disease robs more than just memories — it can also deteriorate the most vibrant personalities and damage the strongest relationships. It can make daily tasks and basic activities seem strenuous and unachievable. Ultimately, and at its worst, Alzheimer’s is fatal. Despite being one of our most critical public health issues, Alzheimer’s research remains severely underfunded and under-prioritized… As the first registered nurse elected to Congress, I have taken a unique approach to Alzheimer’s advocacy because I have sat face-to-face with patients as a caregiver.

That unique approach entails raising awareness about the disease in order to raise funds, and Rep. Johnson has successfully used her position in Congress to do just that:

A deeper public understanding of the disease can mean many things — it can chip away at existing stigmas that prevent patients from seeking care, educate people about early indicators and risk factors, and ultimately help accelerate fundraising to supplement federal research dollars. That’s why I have been a proud supporter of and participant in Dallas’ Walk to End Alzheimer’s, which will take place on Nov. 5. This event is held annually in over 600 cities and communities nationwide and is the world’s single-largest fundraiser for Alzheimer’s research, support, and care.

Despite the great challenges, Rep. Johnson remains hopeful and optimistic with new technologies enabling the next generation of care:

We are continuing to learn more about new biological markers for Alzheimer’s and making PET brain scans more accessible, which help us better identify symptoms and improve prognosis. New research is showing us how to unlock our body’s immune system to wield promising effects. New treatments are showing the potential to slow —and sometimes even reverse — the progression of the disease.

Rep. Johnson is in her 15th term representing Dallas in the U.S. House of Representatives. She is chairwoman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, the first woman and first African American to hold the position. You can read her full editorial in The Dallas Morning News here.