Thursday, August 25, 2011

Alzheimer’s Association NAPA

If you’ve watched women’s college basketball, you will be dismayed by the news that the University of Tennessee’s legendary coach, Pat Summitt, confirmed she has been diagnosed with early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type. She later told news media that her grandmother had suffered the disease.

On January 4, 2011, President Obama signed into law the National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA). This legislative action passed unanimously by both Houses of Congress. NAPA establishes an Advisory Council on Alzheimer’s research, care and services.

The new Advisory Council will develop a national strategic plan to respond to the Alzheimer’s crisis and coordinate Alzheimer’s disease efforts across the federal government. NAPA will ensure the coordination and evaluation of all national efforts in Alzheimer’s research, clinical care, institutional, and home and community-based programs.

One of the most important components of NAPA is that it allows participation in the evaluation and strategic planning process by specialists outside of the federal government including patient advocates, health care providers, state health departments, Alzheimer’s researchers and health associations.

Why NAPA and Why Now?

The Alzheimer’s Association was the leading voice in urging Congress and the White House to pass the National Alzheimer’s Project Act. With a disease that is already impacting so many Americans, the Association recognized the need for a national, coordinated effort that pools the skills of all those working on the problem. The Alzheimer’s Association states the need clearly in its literature:

For too many individuals with Alzheimer’s and their families, the system has failed them, and today we are unnecessarily losing the battle against this devastating disease.

Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States and is the only cause of death among the top 10 in America without a way to prevent, cure or even slow its progression.

Making her announcement, Coach Summitt said she had the company of her son, Tyler, during her time at the Mayo Clinic. He explained his mother's feelings after being diagnosed.

"Nobody accepts this," Tyler said. "And there was anger. 'Why me?' was a question she asked more than once. But then, once she came to terms with it, she treated it like every other challenge she ever had, and is going to do everything she possibly can to keep her mind right and stay the coach."

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