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Thursday, September 12, 2024

Reimagining Brain Health Care in the U.S.

Alzheimer’s disease was discovered in 1906. Over 110 years later, researchers, scientists, caregivers and advocates are still looking for ways to combat it. A new report may have found a  way to significantly reduce the likelihood of getting the disease and other dementias.

Dr. Neelum T. Aggarwal, MD, a cognitive neurologist at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center/ Rush University Medical Center and Lead Physician for the Bringing Art to Life (BATL-C) Chicago program with colleagues, recently co-authored a report that pushes for an ambitious new approach to brain health care.

Here are a few highlighted findings from the Brain Health Partnership’s report, “Creating an Optimal System of Brain Health Care in the United States.

It’s time to prioritize brain health in culture and the healthcare system

Many people believe that Alzheimer’s is unavoidable and inevitable. It’s often looked at as something we expect doctors and caregivers to assist individuals with reactively, after they’re already exhibiting symptoms. However, recent breakthroughs in science show that people can reduce the risk of memory loss and improve cognitive function throughout their lives, before symptoms of Alzheimer’s or related dementias appear.

That’s why the U.S. needs a comprehensive strategy to integrate brain health into its healthcare system. According to the report, in an ideal world, this new approach would include:

  • Healthcare providers working with individuals throughout their lives to monitor brain health, improve cognitive functions and proactively combat cognitive declines
  • Policymakers passing national legislation that supports healthcare providers and gives them the resources needed to administer brain health services to all individuals
  • Local and national campaigns that teach the public about steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, related dementias and the stigma associated with memory loss

A comprehensive strategy that includes these and other steps in the right direction for providers, patients, politicians and businesses could produce enormous societal benefits.

A new brain health care system would greatly improve people’s lives

The strategy outlined above requires a variety of stakeholders to play a part in redefining how the U.S. supports brain health. While significant structural changes would need to be made, the benefits are worth the effort. According to the report, they could include:

  • Improved brain health for a significant majority of the U.S. population
  • Better trained physicians who provide better quality brain health care
  • Cognitive decline detected in individuals at early stages and interventions delivered quickly to improve outcomes
  • A potential drop in Alzheimer’s and dementia prevalence, or delayed progression

These outcomes are achievable but will take time and commitment. That’s not stopping the Brain Health Partnership from taking immediate action.

There’s a lot of work to be done, but action can be taken today

The Brain Health Partnership’s momentum is growing, and this report only scratches the surface of what the partnership plans to do. They also intend to conduct and publish more research on advancing brain health care, promote federal and state policies that encourage evidence-based practices, identify innovative new technology tools for consumers and providers and support creative partnerships that advance education campaigns for consumers. Their ambitious agenda could lead to a reimagined system for brain health care and better lives for millions of individuals.

At CMSS, we look forward to following the Brain Health Partnership’s work and exploring the integration of their recommendations into our approach. One way we’re already doing this is through our partnership with the award-winning Bringing Art to Life (BATL) program, its founder, Dan Potts, MD FAAN, and Neelum Aggarwal, MD. The development of the BATL(C) program continues to explore alternative ways to promote brain health in older adults including person-centered care techniques, expressive art therapy and friendships built between CMSS residents and younger adults.

You can read the Brain Health Partnership’s full report here.

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