Healthy Brain Initiative
The role of public health in enhancing the physical health of older adults is well-known. Public health’s role in maintaining cognitive health, a vital part of healthy aging and quality of life, is emerging. The need for a clearly delineated public health role comes at a critical time given the dramatic aging of the U.S. population, scientific advancements in knowledge about risk behaviors (e.g., lack of physical activity, uncontrolled high blood pressure) related to cognitive decline, and the growing awareness of the significant health, social, and economic burdens associated with cognitive decline.
Cognitive decline, ranging from mild cognitive impairment to dementia, can have profound implications on an individual’s overall health and well-being. Older adults and others experiencing cognitive decline may be unable to care for themselves or conduct necessary activities of daily living, such as meal preparation and money management. Limitations with the ability to effectively manage medications and existing medical conditions are particular concerns when an individual is experiencing cognitive decline or dementia. If cognitive decline can be prevented or better treated, lives of many older adults can be improved.
Opportunities for maintaining optimal cognitive health are growing as public health professionals gain a better understanding of cognitive decline risk factors. The public health community should embrace cognitive health as a priority, invest in its promotion, and enhance our ability to move scientific discoveries rapidly into public health practice. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have partnered with the Alzheimer’s Association to develop information for public health practitioners and the community. The Florida Department of Health Biomedical Research received a one-year grant to provide statewide resources. The first resource was the Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness and Research Symposium was held June 7 and 8, 2018.