WASHINGTON, D.C. — The $100 million Building Our Largest Dementia, or BOLD, Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act, recently signed into law, applies a public health approach to reduce risk, advance care, and improve data about the disease.
U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., co-sponsored the bill, which was written by U.S. Senators Susan Collins, R-Maine, Shelley Capito Moore, R-W.Va., and Catherine Cortez-Masto, D-Nev., and helped pass it through the full U.S. Senate on December 18. It was signed into law by President Donald Trump on New Year’s Eve.
“This legislation is a smart investment that will help translate research into practice, and lead to more effective interventions and treatments. I’m proud to join my colleagues in helping to get it passed and signed into law,” Reed stated in announcing the Act.
About 5.5 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s, costing the United States more than $277 billion per year, including $186 billion in costs to Medicare and Medicaid, according to Reed’s office. Without further action, the number of Americans with Alzheimer’s is expected to nearly triple to as many as 14 million by 2050, costing the nation more than $1.1 trillion per year.
“Alzheimer’s disease is a significant public health issue, and the bill provides funding in a number of key areas,” said Paula Grammas, executive director of the George & Anne Ryan Institute for Neuroscience.
According to Reed’s office, the law applies a public health approach to reduce risk, detect early symptoms, advance care and improve data in an effort to change the trajectory of the disease. The Act authorizes $20 million annually over the next five years to establish three Alzheimer’s disease-focused initiatives within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias Public Health Centers of Excellence: The centers of excellence will promote effective Alzheimer’s disease and care giving interventions as well as educate the public on Alzheimer’s disease, cognitive decline, and brain health. These centers will implement the CDC’s Healthy Aging Public Health Road Map and will take key steps to support health and social services professionals as well as families and communities
- Cooperative agreements with the CDC and state health departments: The agreements will help the health departments meet local needs in promoting brain health, reducing risk of cognitive decline and improve care for those with Alzheimer’s disease
- Data Grants: The grants will aim to improve the analysis and timely reporting of data on Alzheimer’s disease, cognitive decline, care giving, and health disparities at the state and national levels
“The news of federal funding to develop a comprehensive, public health approach to Alzheimer’s disease is indeed very welcome – as well as timely,” said Dr. Jonathan D. Drake, associate director of the Alzheimer’s Disease & Memory Disorders Center at Rhode Island Hospital.
Drake said the center has been a collaborating partner with University of Rhode Island, the Alzheimer’s Association and others on the revision of the RI Alzheimer’s Disease State Plan. He said they hope to widen the scope of public health outreach efforts, especially by expanding the existing RI Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention Registry, and working with the Department of Health to develop programs to address known Alzheimer’s Disease risk factors in our local communities.
“We know that a focus on primary prevention and healthy brain aging starting decades before the onset of symptoms is key, as is sustained support to our existing patients and caregivers. Federal funding is vital in combating this public health crisis, helping to address these elements that are beyond the practical means of treating physicians,” Drake said.
The amount of funding Rhode Island receives through the Act will depend on how Congress appropriates the funds the law authorizes, said Chip Unruh, spokesman for Reed.
“Senator Reed is on the appropriations committee, and he will certainly be fighting to get the full amount,” appropriated, Unruh said. The share of the funding that Rhode Island benefits from will also depend on the grants Rhode Island researchers and organizations apply for through the Act, he added.
With no treatments approved that halt the disease, it’s important to support new ideas and areas of research into the causes of and possible treatments for Alzheimer’s, according to Grammas.
“Until treatments are found, educating the public about how to improve and maintain brain health is the single most effective thing we can do, and measures like this from Senator Reed will help expand the resources available for those purposes,” Grammas said.
Rob Borkowski is a PBN staff writer. Email him at Borkowski@PBN.com.