Washington, DC (October 8, 2020) — The International Assn. for Indigenous Aging (IA2) has received a five-year National Healthy Brain Initiative award from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The award supports IA2’s ongoing national leadership role in addressing dementia issues in Indian country.
“We are excited to bring more than three decades of experience working with American Indian and Alaska Native people to this project,” says Bill Benson, IA2 President.
The project establishes IA2 as a national hub for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) serving Indian country. IA2 will provide training, technical assistance, subject matter expertise, and resources for tribes, tribal leadership, healthcare and public health staff, Urban Indian Health Centers and organizations, and tribal elder services advocates across the country. Activities are designed to advance community engagement and help build capacity among tribes and tribal member-serving organizations, promote healthy cognitive aging strategies across the lifespan, and foster dementia-capable tribal communities.
Project partners include J. Neil Henderson (Choctaw), director of the University of Minnesota’s Wisdom Keepers Medical Discovery Team; Tassy Parker (Seneca), director of the Univ. of New Mexico’s Center for Native Health; Larry Curley (Navajo), executive director of the National Indian Council on Aging; and Mike Splaine, owner and principal of Splaine Consulting.
According to the project’s principal investigator Dr. Jolie Crowder, “We know from experience that time and trust are fundamental to our work in Indian Country. We appreciate the opportunity afforded by this project to build relationships, create meaningful partnerships, and work to better understand Native communities’ specific needs in this first year. We also recognize the importance of Native-centered stakeholder engagement that honors and embraces the unique cultures, diversity, traditions, and sovereignty of the people this project is designed to help.”
IA2’s project will address two strategies and eight action items from the Road Map for Indian Country, taking a multidisciplinary public health approach. It will identify and feature locally-tailored, culturally relevant activities to address Native disparities in the burden of ADRD.
For the past three years, IA2 has played a pivotal role in the development of the Road Map for Indian Country and engaged in meaningful work to address ADRD. IA2 conducted national webinars and focus groups for tribal health and senior program directors culminating in a report for the Alzheimer’s Association that contributed significantly to the Road Map. Through an Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) project funded by the CDC, IA2 hosted a summit for Indian health-related organizations–resulting in a range of on-the-ground insights into the current national impacts of ADRD in Native communities. In addition, IA2 created a state-of-the art suite of materials, now available nationally, to inform and educate tribal community members about the direct relationship between heart and brain health. The materials are available at https://www.astho.org/Healthy-Aging/Healthy-Heart-Healthy-Brain/.
Additional national awardees in the category, designed to address dementia in populations with a high burden of ADRD include the University of Illinois at Chicago and UsAgainstAlzheimer’s, based in Washington, D.C. The Alzheimer’s Association was selected to continue their work assisting with national implementation and evaluation of the broader Healthy Brain Initiative’s Road Map Series.