I am suffering from a bad case of disease envy.
Cancer is suddenly everywhere this spring – a segment on 60 Minutes, stories in major publications, even a three-part Ken Burns documentary. Top researchers throw around words like “breakthrough,” “revolutionary,” “remission” and “cure.”
I’m envious because the disease I advocate for isn’t cancer: It’s Alzheimer’s.
My own Alzheimer’s experience runs deep. I’ve lost grandmothers, aunts and uncles, and both of my parents to it. Unless there is a major research breakthrough, the chances are high I’ll also live with and die from Alzheimer’s.
Now labeled the most expensive disease in America, Alzheimer’s costs our nation $226 million annually. Five million Americans live with the disease, and by 2050 that number may escalate to 16 million with the cost of care topping $1 trillion.
Unlike any of the other leading causes of death in the U.S., Alzheimer’s has no cure, no effective treatments, and no way to slow its progression.
Alzheimer’s is health crisis like no other. So, why haven’t there been any major breakthroughs?
It all comes down to money.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has earmarked $586 million for Alzheimer’s research this year, a fraction of the $5.4 billion allotted to cancer research.
The disparity in research funding is shocking. This lack of funds is why we’ve had no real progress in stopping Alzheimer’s disease.
But that may be about to change. Right now, Congress is considering adding $300 million to Alzheimer’s NIH funding for the fiscal year 2016. The Alzheimer’s Association has made this research funding increase one of their top federal priorities.
While these additional monies won’t get Alzheimer’s disease on parity with cancer or many other major diseases, the influx of dollars will be put to good use. Promising research studies will finally get launched while existing projects can move into new phases.
We need these monies and here’s how you could help.
June is National Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, a perfect time to let your elected representatives know you support more research funding for Alzheimer’s disease. You can go to this U.S. government website for links about where to send a personal letter or email, or contact your representative by phone.
It’s that easy.
Alzheimer’s disease must be stopped. If we don’t find a cure or effective treatments, the disease could bankrupt our healthcare system and derail the economy.
Take a stand against Alzheimer’s and for research money. Tell Congress you want Alzheimer’s disease to be a national priority.