Advancing Health Equity in Alzheimer’s Care

Advancing Health Equity in Alzheimer’s Care

November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, a time to show support for the more than 6 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia and one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States.[1] It is a progressive disease, meaning symptoms appear gradually and worsen over time. Symptoms can vary in the beginning, but everyone diagnosed experiences the same general decline in cognitive abilities. Subtle changes in thinking progress into more serious memory loss and eventually an inability to carry on a conversation and control one’s movements.[2] Those with mid and late-stage Alzheimer’s often require intensive care to carry out daily activities.[3]

The burden of Alzheimer’s disease does not fall on every community equally. Latino Americans are about one and one-half times more likely than non-Latino white Americans to have Alzheimer’s and other dementias.[4] According to LatinosAgainstAlzheimer’s, U.S. Latinos living with the disease are projected to grow 832% by 2060.[5] Black Americans are also roughly one-half to two times more likely than non-Latino white Americans to develop Alzheimer’s and related dementias.[6] The factors that place Black and Latino Americans at elevated risk remain poorly understood. This is partly because members of under-represented groups have historically been left out of biomedical studies.[7]

Minority populations also face challenges related to access to care. A recent special report by the Alzheimer’s Association on Race, Ethnicity, and Alzheimer’s in America showed that minority populations experienced higher rates of discrimination when seeking health care than non-Latino White Americans.[8]

  • 50% of Black Americans.
  • 42% of Native Americans.
  • 34% of Asian Americans.
  • 33% of Latino Americans.
  • 9% of Non-Latino White Americas.

By 2060, projections suggest approximately 14 million people will be living with Alzheimer’s and the cost of treatment will exceed $500 billion annually.[9] Scientists still do not fully understand what causes Alzheimer’s. There is likely not a single cause, thus it is so important to find effective treatments and prevention steps needed to ensure no one is lost to Alzheimer’s.

Every community should have a fair and just opportunity for early diagnosis and access to quality care that reduces risk. The Biden administration, medical professionals, patients, and advocates must accelerate efforts to address the factors driving health disparities including stigma, cultural differences, and awareness. Existing disparities go beyond access to clinical care and include representation in clinical trials and research studies for Alzheimer’s disease.

Until there is a cure, all of us must do our part to build supportive, dementia-friendly environments in our communities and drive changes that matter most to caregivers and people living with Alzheimer’s disease.