New Urgency To Ending Alzheimer's
USAgainstAlzheimer's—the national community and movement committed to stopping Alzheimer's by 2020—today launched WomenAgainstAlzheimer's (womenagainstalzheimers.org), the first national network of women in leadership positions working to speed the pace of research and build real momentum to end Alzheimer's disease.
Women represent two out of three Americans with Alzheimer's—and 70 percent of unpaid caregivers for Alzheimer's patients. Alzheimer's deaths rose 68 percent from 2000 to 2010, while deaths from other major diseases declined. Alzheimer's is now the nation's sixth leading cause of death, and nearly as many women die of Alzheimer's each year as from breast and ovarian cancers combined.
"Women are already on the front lines in fighting Alzheimer's," said Trish Vradenburg , a WomenAgainstAlzheimer's Founder and co-founder of USAgainstAlzheimer's. "The commitment, connections, compassion and collaborative spirit of our Founders combine to create a much-needed, disruptive new force to re-energize policymakers, industry, scientists and the public toward ending Alzheimer's."
WomenAgainstAlzheimer's kicks off with a dynamic network of 40 Founders nationwide—who hold leadership positions in advocacy, business, science, media and other fields—and an Honorary Congressional Committee chaired by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Congresswoman Annie Kuster (D-NH) and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA).
"Alzheimer's takes a devastating toll on too many American families, and women bear a particularly heavy burden from it," said Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), co-chair of the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer's Disease and ranking member of the Senate Special Committee on Aging. "By co-chairing the WomenAgainstAlzheimer's Honorary Congressional Committee, I hope to help this outstanding group of women advocates make ending Alzheimer's a top priority for our nation."
With an ad today in Roll Call, Capitol Hill's leading newspaper, WomenAgainstAlzheimer's is also inviting every female Member of Congress to join the fight. The Network's mission is, first, to harness the power and creative energy of women to foster new urgency for finding a cure and, second, to build a movement that commits our nation to an aggressive plan for prevention and treatment of Alzheimer's disease.
The Network's first activities include a summit in Washington in May that will include meetings with policymakers to build champions among women in Congress.
The WomenAgainstAlzheimer's research agenda on sex-based differences is supported with the upcoming launch of the 2013 Geoffrey Beene Global NeuroDiscovery Challenge. Details of the Challenge will first be shared with the scientific and advocacy community on April 29 at the Society for Women's Health Research annual dinner. It will challenge research teams to identify male/female differences from pre-symptomatic to late-stage Alzheimer's, offering $100,000 in prize awards.
WomenAgainstAlzheimer's Founders are rallying around this key issue of sex-based research that may identify different symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer's disease for both women and men. They will be promoting the challenge in their home states to engage next-generation researchers on campuses and local research centers to encourage support for Alzheimer's research.
"Women are two-times at risk for Alzheimer's because we outlive men. What else makes us more vulnerable? It's time to find out if sex-based differences that transformed the diagnosis and treatment of heart disease in women are true for the brain as well," said Meryl Comer , president and CEO of the Geoffrey Beene Foundation Alzheimer's Initiative and a WomenAgainstAlzheimer's Founder. "We are pleased to launch this innovation challenge in support of WomenAgainstAlzheimer's."
WomenAgainstAlzheimer's will work to expand the Founders network, engage with federal policymakers on legislative and funding opportunities for Alzheimer's research, and increase awareness about Alzheimer's as a major women's health crisis that requires a robust response from government, the research community and industry.
"The number of people with Alzheimer's is expected to triple by 2050, and women will continue to bear the brunt—because they are not only at higher risk for the disease but they also are more likely to be caregivers," said Reisa Sperling, MD, MMSc, director of the Center for Alzheimer's Research and Treatment at Brigham and Women's Hospital and professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School. "WomenAgainstAlzheimer's has tremendous potential to bring women together as problem-solvers to make Alzheimer's a preventable illness."
In addition to being costly, Alzheimer's disease places an enormous physical and emotional burden on patients, families and caregivers. Alzheimer's care in the US is estimated to cost $203 billion in 2013. Additionally, this year more than 15 million Americans, mostly women, will provide unpaid care for Alzheimer's patients, valued at more than $216 billion.