Minnesota and the new National Alzheimer’s Plan
St. Paul recently became a part of Alzheimer’s history when the Obama Administration announced its national strategy for tackling the disease. Under this strategy, the administration hopes to find ways to treat and prevent Alzheimer’s by 2025. With a budget of $100 million, it intends to fund mostly research projects, but it will also provide support to caregivers, educate the public, and increase data collection.
With grant money from the Obama administration, researchers will test a new insulin nasal spray that a St. Paul doctor developed 15 years ago.
While the literature is still developing, doctors are seeing a connection between the role of insulin and the brain’s normal memory processes. Glenn Smith, a clinical neuropsychologist at the Mayo Clinic, explains, “[p]reliminary research suggests that when taken as a nose spray, insulin reaches the brain within a few minutes and improves memory.” But, Smith cautions, “[t]his research involved small groups of participants who had either early Alzheimer's disease or mild cognitive impairment. Although this research is promising, more research on the safety and effectiveness of intranasal insulin therapy for Alzheimer's disease is necessary.” Hopefully, the grant money from Washington will move us one step closer to a conclusive answer.
But Minnesota’s influence does not stop there. Dr. Ronald Peterson, the director of the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, is also the chair of the advisory council that produced the plan. He is optimistic about the prospects, saying: “I think [the national Alzheimer's strategy] is aggressive, but it may very well be accomplished as well." Minnesota's role in the formation of this strategy should not be surprising; we have got 98,000 reasons to get involved. 98,000 is the number of people that suffer from Alzheimer's, and as the baby boomers get older it will only grow. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, by almost 25%.
This is a pressing problem for the nation and Minnesota. The cost of caring for people with dementia is huge, almost $200 billion this year. And it’s only going to get more expensive as that number grows. While Minnesota does have some policy language on Alzheimer's, it is far from comprehensive. The Alzheimer’s Disease Working Group argues that, “Minnesota needs a much stronger and comprehensive statement on Alzheimer’s disease, which articulates the state’s commitment to policies and actions that support its citizens affected by the disease and prepares the state for the enormous increases in Alzheimer’s that lie ahead.”