Alzheimer’s Event on March 3 Examines Health Disparities and Alzheimer’s Disease

COVID-19 has laid bare some undesirable truths: underserved communities are disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. In the field of Alzheimer’s and dementia, statistics point to a similarly troubling trend.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, for instance, African Americans are about twice as likely as whites to have Alzheimer’s or another dementia and Hispanics are 1.5 times more likely to have Alzheimer’s. Additionally, African Americans are more prone to risk factors for vascular disease — like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol — which may also be risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and stroke-related dementia.

Which is why the Alzheimer’s Association is striving for health equity in the delivery of service and research.

On March 3, the Association is hosting the Dr. James S. Jackson Seminar on Health Equity and Alzheimer’s Disease virtually from 5-6:30 p.m. to discuss the latest research involving underserved communities.

The event — named to honor Dr. James Jackson’s rigorous research at the University of Michigan — brings together some of the nation’s top experts in the field of health equity and Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Carl V. Hill, chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer for the Alzheimer’s Association, and Peter Lichtenberg, Ph.D., director of the Wayne State University Institute of Gerontology and president of the Gerontological Society of America (GSA), will host the event.

Speakers and topics for the event include:
• Targeting Chronic Stress and Blood Pressure Self-Care to Prevent Cognitive Decline in African Americans Across the Lifespan – Kathy D. Wright, Ph.D., APRN-CNS, The Ohio State University College of Nursing, Chronic Brain Injury Program, Alzheimer’s Research Center of Excellence
• Health Inequality Contributes to Cognitive Impairment and Dementia: The Case of West Virginia – Bernard G. Schreurs, Ph.D., West Virginia University School of Medicine, WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute
• Alzheimer’s Disease and COVID-19: The Vicious Cycle of Inequality – Irving E. Vega, Ph.D., Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, Michigan Center for Contextual Factors in Alzheimer’s Disease
• Culturally Responsive Caregiver Support: Developing Interventions for Everyone – Sheria G. Robinson-Lane, Ph.D., MSN, MHA, RN, University of Michigan School of Nursing, Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center

With new research just out from Case Western Reserve University showing African Americans with dementia have close to three times the risk of being infected with COVID-19 as white individuals with dementia, the event is particularly timely.

“These are difficult times with caregiving, caregiving while reducing risk for COVID-19,” said Dr. Hill, who grew up in College Park, Ga., and witnessed challenges for accessing quality health care. “There is a high level of anxiety and stress, but I believe this is a real opportunity for us to pursue equity in terms of engaging those communities with information, care and support.”

Jennifer Lepard, Alzheimer’s Association Michigan Chapter president and CEO, said at the national level the Alzheimer’s Association is committed to not only funding diverse initiatives – like the new IDEAS study, whose goal is to enroll 4,000 African American and Latino participants to determine if amyloid PET scans improve diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease – but also committed to working with national partners to ensure that early detection and diagnosis initiatives reach all communities.

Locally, the Michigan Chapter works with community members and partners representing a wide range of underserved populations and communities to understand needs and provide support and services.

“Our goal as an Association is to work toward a world without Alzheimer’s and all other dementia. We can’t do that without research, and we can’t do that without listening to and understanding the needs of diverse communities locally,” Lepard said. “While we already work with some amazing partners and entities, we’re always looking to connect with others who can help us work on solutions that might help us ensure greater equity in our communities.”

To register for the Dr. James S. Jackson Seminar on Health Equity and Alzheimer’s Disease, visit: alz.org/jackson-seminar. For more information and support, visit alz.org or call the Association’s 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900.