News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion
TUESDAY, JANUARY 30, 2007
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Alzheimer’s should be nation’s top priority

To The Daily: More than 4 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. And with the aging of the baby boomers, this number is set to triple in a generation. However, the disease isn’t just confined to seniors. In a recent cover story, Newsweek reported that the disease afflicts people in their 50s and younger; “Alzheimer’s is not just a disease that hits 80-year-olds in nursing homes.”

In Alabama, Alzheimer’s is responsible for more than 30 percent of deaths. About 50,000 Alabama citizens are estimated to be Alzheimer’s victims.

For every dollar the government spends to treat Alzheimer’s, which is nearly $120 billion a year, our nation devotes less than a penny toward finding a cure. The costs that await us to treat Alzheimer’s stagger the imagination. Without medical breakthroughs, federal spending on treating Alzheimer’s is projected to increase to more than $1 trillion a year in the next 50 years. That is more than 10 percent of our current gross domestic product.

Neither private insurance nor government programs cover all the expenses associated with Alzheimer’s care. Caregiver families typically spend about $19,000 a year in out-of-pocket costs for their loved ones. Often, children of Alzheimer’s patients are caught in the middle of helping support their children and their parents.

To eradicate Alzheimer’s, our nation needs to make Alzheimer’s the number-one research priority. One of the great challenges facing Congress and the president is to focus on this problem. It’s difficult to imagine a more substantial gift to America than implementing a bold, coherent approach to defeat Alzheimer’s.

Michael Ciamarra
Vice president, Alabama Policy Institute
Birmingham

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