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HHS releases draft plan addressing Alzheimer's disease

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has released a draft of the national plan to address Alzheimer's disease, an affliction that affected an estimated 5.4 million Americans in 2011 and is expected to affect 13.2 million by 2050.

The release of the draft plan, which resulted from months of work by an advisory council and others, has been in process for months but comes about two months after President Barack Obama signed the National Alzheimer's Project Act into law.

The draft plan sets out five goals as the foundation of the national plan to tackle Alzheimer's disease:

1. Prevent and effectively treat the disease by 2025.
2. Optimize care quality and efficiency.
3. Expand supports for people with the disease and their families.
4. Enhance public awareness and engagement.
5. Track progress and drive improvement.

Achieving the specifics of those goals – things such as providing education to professional and nonprofessional caregivers, more research and implementing new models of care – will take commitment and money, say Alzheimer's advocates.

"As this draft plan is revised, the Alzheimer's Association urges the administration to specify the level of commitment and investment that will be needed to meet the goal to prevent and effectively treat the disease by 2025," said a statement from the Alzheimer's Association.

The Obama administration has already said it is committing $156 million over the next two years to fight Alzheimer's. $50 million is being made immediately available for research. $80 million for more research is in the president's 2013 budget, as is $26 million toward caregiver support, provider education and increasing public awareness.

[See also: Obama administration devotes $156M to fight Alzheimer's disease.]

"I think the plan is a critical step for the country," said Eric Hall, president and CEO of the Alzheimer's Foundation of America and one of the plan's advisory council members. "Implementing the plan, in my mind, is, if not more important (than the creation of the plan itself) – 'cause what's the sense of having a plan if we can't get it anywhere or if we can't act upon it?

"I don't find that that's the case – that the administration or the federal agencies are not sensitive to it. I think they are. I just think they are also really bound by the frugal financial situation we find ourselves in."

HHS is seeking comment on the draft plan through March 30. Send comments to NAPA@hhs.gov.

Follow HFN associate editor Stephanie Bouchard on Twitter @SBouchardHFN.