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Public Health Week and Alzheimer’s: Getting a “Return on Investment” through Early Detection and Diagnosis

Happy National Public Health Week 2013! This year, National Public Health Week celebrates investment in public health that offers a good “Return on Investment.” When it comes to Alzheimer’s disease, a good return on investment comes with early detection of Alzheimer’s by improving the quality of life for those living with the disease.

Early detection and diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is important in fulfilling the critical work of public health, to improve health at the population level by building:

  • Healthier lives: Early detection of Alzheimer’s disease allows for the management of co-occurring chronic conditions.  For example, in 2009, 30 percent of Medicare beneficiaries also had heart disease and 29 percent had diabetes.  People with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias along with other chronic conditions are more likely to be hospitalized than people with the same chronic condition but no dementia. 
  • Longer lives: Early diagnosis allows for some forms of cognitive impairment, such as that caused by a vitamin B12 deficiency, to be reversed. Recent research shows that nine percent of individuals experiencing dementia-like symptoms had potentially reversible forms of cognitive impairment.
  • Higher quality lives: Individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in earlier stages of the disease can plan ahead and make decisions for their future.  Additionally, diagnosis in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease can reduce anxiety, facilitate better management of co-occurring chronic conditions, and reduce the burden on caregivers.   

Promotion of early detection and diagnosis can also help to fight stigma around the disease.  By educating the public on the value of an early diagnosis and correcting misperceptions, such as the idea that memory loss is a normal part of aging, the public health community can empower individuals. Simply combating the idea that “there is nothing to be done” is a major factor in reducing stigma, increasing early detection, and ultimately, changing norms around the disease.  

Three Things the public health community can do now on early detection

The public health community has an opportunity to use the tools of the profession to provide critical information to the public, educate providers, and partner with diverse groups to increase impact. Presented below are three things the public health community can do now to help increase early detection and diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

Early Detection Checklist 


On your agency’s web site, post information about, and links to, the Know the 10 Signs campaign (available in six languages) and the Medicare Annual Wellness Benefit.

checkboxSend information to health care providers on how to assess cognition and the best tools to detect possible cognitive impairment.

checkboxPartner with at least one group (aging, voluntary health associations, foundations) to distribute information about the warning signs of Alzheimer’s to the general public, and partner with at least one group (physician groups, medical societies, health provider associations) to distribute the information to providers.

Learn More during April 4 Webinar

Public Health ROIHear from experts about why early detection offers a good return on investment through improved quality of life; how surveillance and Healthy People 2020 are important to the effort to increase early diagnosis; and one state’s public health efforts to increase Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

The webinar will feature speakers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Healthy Aging Program, Texas Department of State Health Services, and the Alzheimer’s Association. 

Join us Thursday, April 4 at 2pm EDT/ 11am PDT.  To register for the webinar, click here.


The Alzheimer’s Public Health E-News is supported by Cooperative Agreement #5U58DP002945-03 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the Alzheimer’s Association and do not necessarily represent the official views of the CDC.

Quick Resources on Early Detection

Public Health Website

alz-web-logo.jpgThe Alzheimer's Association has created a new website dedicated to public health. To learn more about Alzheimer's as a public health crisis, visit

The 10 Warning Signs
Know the 10 Signs
The Know the 10 Signs campaign is a national education effort to increase awareness of the warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease and the benefits of early detection and diagnosis.


For more information on the Healthy Brain Initiative, the public health agenda, or Alzheimer's disease in general, contact Catherine Morrison or check out

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