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Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich Address Senate Special Committee on Aging, Calling for Urgent Action Against Alzheimer's Disease
Date:5/14/2008

The Alzheimer's Study Group Outlines a National Plan

WASHINGTON, May 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today, retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich presented testimony to a special hearing of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, convened by Chairman Senator Herbert Kohl (D-WI) specifically to hear updates on the fight against Alzheimer's disease. This was Justice O'Connor's first public statement about her commitment to fighting this disease that has struck her husband, John, and over 5 million other Americans.

Justice O'Connor is a member of the Alzheimer's Study Group, an independent and bipartisan alliance of national leaders. The Study Group was launched in 2007 with the bipartisan support of the Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer's Disease to develop a coordinated national plan to fight the disease. Speaker Gingrich, who co-chairs the Alzheimer's Study Group with former U.S. Senator Bob Kerrey, outlined the Group's work in his testimony.

"I became an Alzheimer's caregiver when my husband, John, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 1990 and I have a first-hand understanding and a profound empathy for the millions of other caregiving families around the nation," said Justice O'Connor in her written testimony. "Alzheimer's is a tragic disease for families, but it is also fast becoming a national disease -- a national health crisis. That is why I am here today as a member of the Alzheimer's Study Group, which represents an important step in helping the United States meet a bold national goal -- one that seeks nothing less than to eradicate Alzheimer's disease."

According to Speaker Gingrich, "With almost a half a million Americans developing this terrible, incurable disease each year, $150 billion in annual costs to the federal government alone, and all the trend lines growing worse each day, I think we can all agree that Alzheimer's is a national crisis. If we want real change in the devastating trajectory of this disease, we need real change in our strategies to overcome it."

The Alzheimer's Study Group has identified five specific issues that will form the core of its strategic recommendations. Because the Group's approach is to integrate various perspectives, it will announce recommendations in the form of a coordinated national plan in early 2009. The Group has created a task force to develop recommendations for each of these issues:

-- Encouraging Collaboration among Researchers. Scientific researchers

from academia, government, and industry need the tools and incentives

to scan the growing body of Alzheimer's research for relevant

breakthroughs and more efficiently collaborate

on solutions, regardless of organizational boundaries.

-- Improving Alzheimer's Clinical Trials. Alzheimer's clinical trials

must be better supported and coordinated to reduce delays, improve

efficiency, and ultimately allow the faster identification of new

promising treatments.

-- 'Rapid Learning' from Large Electronic Health Datasets. Cutting edge

tools and methods of "data mining" have the potential to revolutionize

how we prevent, treat and care for Alzheimer's through a 21st century

version of the Framingham Heart Study.

-- Integrating a Community-Based Care Model. Innovative approaches to

care that better support patients and families and help manage costs

must be developed from best case practices, and made available to all

Americans.

-- Providing Better Information to Policymakers. Government leaders must

be given meaningful and timely information on the mounting impact and

potential responses to Alzheimer's if they hope to assess progress,

set funding priorities, and exercise strategic oversight.

"We need to move now to reinvent and reinforce our fight against Alzheimer's. For the baby boom generation, this is certainly one of our last chances," explained Gingrich. "We have many of the pieces already but we have to break down organizational barriers that prevent us from putting them together. Expect updates from the Alzheimer's Study Group in coming months as we move toward a bold action-oriented plan next year. We have the nation's future to protect."

About the Alzheimer's Study Group

The Alzheimer's Study Group is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit organization created for the sole purpose of creating the National Alzheimer's Strategic Plan to overcome America's mounting Alzheimer's crisis. Established on July 11, 2007, the ASG began its work with an assessment of the country's current efforts and is now developing strategic recommendations to accelerate progress toward overcoming this disease. The work of the ASG has been funded by the Alzheimer's Association, the Dwyer family, Pfizer-Eisai, the McCance Foundation, the Vradenburg Foundation, and Wyeth. The ASG has also received an in-kind contribution of substantial project management and research support from Booz Allen Hamilton. The effort is being administered and managed through the Center for Health Transformation. For more information, visit the Alzheimer's Study Group website at http://www.alzstudygroup.org .


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SOURCE The Alzheimer's Study Group
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