AFRICAN AMERICANS ARE are two to three times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s. This startling statistic inspired retired Baker Botts partner (and current Senior Counsel) J. Patrick Berry to help design and implement the African American Network Against Alzheimer’s, a nonprofit focused on informing the public about how this disease constitutes one of the greatest healthcare disparities affecting African Americans today.
Although Berry is not African American, he and his colleagues in Us Against Alzheimer’s became committed to the formation of such a network in early 2012. The official launch of the African American Network will occur this April. Their first objective was to educate members of the African American community about their higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s (it is the fourth leading cause of death among older African Americans.) Materials are being specifically tailored to address different segments of the African American community based on such factors as age, income, education, and geographical location.
Secondly, the African American Network will identify and engage African American leaders in various community, government, business, and faith-based organizations to participate in and support the effort to educate African Americans about Alzheimer’s. Over a dozen distinguished individuals have already agreed to participate as founders, including Reverend Al Sharpton, former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher, and Melody Barnes, former Director of President Obama’s Domestic Policy Council.
Thirdly, as more members of the African American community become aware of how dramatically Alzheimer’s discriminates against them, and as more African Americans begin to share their stories and experiences with one another, the African American Network will assist African American communities in requesting their elected officials to support greater research of the causes of Alzheimer’s, including race-based differences. The African American Network will also assist in the mobilization of African Americans, especially younger African Americans, to become aware of and to participate in studies focused on finding a cure for the disease.
The economic and emotional burdens of Alzheimer’s on African Americans, which are already severe, will continue to grow as the proportion of older Americans in minority groups is predicted to double between 2012 and 2050, a development that will dramatically increase the disease’s total costs on our nation.