The key to defeating Alzheimer's disease is strong bipartisanship

The key to defeating Alzheimer's disease is strong bipartisanship
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The fact that Congress is bitterly divided is not news. But, even in the worst partisan environment, there are glimmers of unity. Tucked into the recently passed spending bill was an increase in spending for Alzheimer’s disease research and care that demonstrated something that has recently become rare in American politics: a showing of bipartisanship.

Both Republicans and Democrats understand that meaningful investments in finding a cure, or at least an effective treatment in slowing progression of Alzheimer’s — our country’s most expensive disease — will ultimately provide the payoff that leads to better quality of life for all Americans, alleviate the burden on family caregivers, and lower overall care costs.

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Driving this bipartisanship is the knowledge that when it comes to Alzheimer’s disease, the status quo is simply unsustainable. As Americans age, the incidence of Alzheimer’s will increase and care costs will grow exponentially.

By 2050, approximately 14 million Americans will have dementia, and costs for caring for those with Alzheimer’s will soar to a projected $1.1 trillion in today’s dollars, including a 500 percent increase in combined Medicare and Medicaid spending.

Yet, even when we are able to upend this crisis trajectory and find a viable Alzheimer’s treatment, a 2017 study by the RAND Corporation found that our current health-care system lacks the capacity to handle screening and dissemination of any life-saving treatment.

To be fully prepared, we will need to undertake a multipronged approach that couples recent strides in research funding with resources for care, all while keeping in mind the need to build the infrastructure necessary for the eventual treatment of the millions of Americans impacted by this horrific disease.

We’ll also need to create additional incentives to train more health-care workers in geriatrics, neurology and research, increased public awareness around brain health, memory screenings, and more health clinics and infusion centers that will actually provide the ultimate treatment for millions of Americans.

Fueled by a bipartisan push in Congress, progress is being made in providing the National Institutes for Health necessary funding levels to put us on a viable path to more efficacious Alzheimer’s treatments.

The past several budget cycles have seen historic increases in federal appropriations for Alzheimer’s research, but funding still lags below the $2 billion annually that leading research scientists say is necessary to make meaningful progress. Funding for caregiving services, training and support are even more in need as incidence increases and more families are thrust into the role of caregiving.

There are vital ways to move forward on this, and many credible groups contributing to research, caregiving, and more. We need to continue the momentum. Initiatives include a push to increase the Alzheimer’s research budget to $2.2 billion and providing an additional $50 million for caregiver services and support programs that are administered by the Administration for Community Living.

Finally, the Building Our Largest Dementia Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act would apply a public health approach to Alzheimer’s disease, creating a modern infrastructure for the prevention, treatment, and care of Alzheimer’s and related dementias.

Bipartisanship has allowed for progress in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease, and modest accomplishments have been achieved. Yet, the real prize remains elusive. Only by continuing to work together, as policymakers and as communities, can we advance to a point where — instead of Alzheimer’s robbing memories — Alzheimer’s is a memory.

Steve IsraelSteven (Steve) J. IsraelWill Trump's racist tweets backfire? The real estate tycoon meets Iran How to unite the nation once more MORE represented New York in Congress for 16 years. He is a member of the board of director of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America and serves as chairman of the Global Institute at Long Island University.