In Washington, we know the devastating impact Alzheimer’s disease has on our nation’s communities. Alzheimer’s is the country’s sixth-leading cause of death and the only leading cause that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed.
This public health crisis is deeply personal to me. I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2010 and am currently living with mild neurocognitive disorder. I advocate for a cure and better care and support for the 110,000 Washingtonians who are living with Alzheimer’s and the 341,000 unpaid caregivers who provide support to their loved ones.
Thankfully, with the leadership of Senator Patty Murray, Congress is taking action to make Alzheimer’s a national priority. As ranking member of the Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee, Murray has been instrumental in securing historic funding increases for Alzheimer’s and dementia research funding at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Her committee in late June approved a $425 million increase for fiscal year 2019. In just the last four years, total funding has increased from $631 million to $1.9 billion – and if this most recent increase is signed into law, this number will reach $2.3 billion.
Because of Murray’s leadership, together with other Congressional champions in both parties, scientists are making progress toward the first goal of the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease – to effectively treat and prevent Alzheimer’s by 2025.
This influx of funding is accelerating progress toward new discoveries and allowing for a wide variety of investment that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. Across the country, researchers are advancing our understanding of the disease, exploring biomarkers, discovering potential ways to reduce risk, and are working to move promising therapeutic candidates and diagnostic tools forward into clinical testing.
Federal support has the power to change the trajectory of this disease and is critical in moving the cause forward. I stand with the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s Impact Movement, and thousands of advocates in Washington state and across the country who continue to work closely with Congressional leaders like Murray to advocate for increased research funding and policies to improve the lives of everyone affected by Alzheimer’s. One day soon, we will have the first survivor of this disease.
Bob Wellington is a Tacoma resident and retired Air Force officer who served on the national Alzheimer’s Association Early Stage Advisory Group and is currently a member or the Alzheimer’s Disease Working Group that wrote the Washington State Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias.