As soon as a problem becomes a national issue the government cannot continue ignoring it. Unfortunately, in most cases the problem has to afflict a quite large part of population in order to draw the attention of the authorities. Alzheimer disease is one of the problems that falls under this rule. It took a lot of time, money, and peoples’ lives before the USA government understood that it was not enough just to provide help for people who already suffered from it. So the governments started looking for possible ways to not only cure but also prevent this illness. The Alzheimer's Breakthrough Act of 2009 became the first step towards overcoming this serious problem on the national level.
The Breakthrough Act is designed to address Alzheimer's disease that is a growing social problem. According to Congress’ findings “5,300,000 Americans have Alzheimer’s disease and 1 in 10 individuals has a family member with the disease” (Alzheimer’s Breakthrough Act, 2010, p. 2). In addition to that, scientists predict that the number of people suffering from Alzheimer's disease will dramatically increase in several decades. Most often, this illness affects people of elderly age; however, there are cases when Alzheimer’s disease was diagnosed in young people. (Alzheimer's Association, 2011, p. 2). That is why it is related neither to the age nor to the social status of a person.
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The legislation was offered by Barbara Mikulski and Christopher Bond in the Senate and by Edward Markey and Christopher Smith in the House (Alzheimer's Association, 2009, par. 1). The government knew already about this problem and spent money on the research. However, it appeared that it was not an effective strategy because the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease started to increase. Scientists estimated that “by 2050, the number of individuals with the disease could reach 16,000,000 unless science finds a way to prevent or cure the disease” (Alzheimer’s Breakthrough Act, 2010, p. 2). This frightening statistic, numerous organizations devoted to the problem of Alzheimer’s disease, and growing public concern on this issue brought the matter to the authorities’ attention. In 1984 the National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke (NINCDS) and the Alzheimer’s disease and Related Disorders Association (ADRDA) established criteria for the clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease (Jack, Clifford et al., 2011, p. 1).
The issue of Alzheimer’s disease touches various levels including social, economical, and political spheres of life. Media is involved in this problem as well. Alzheimer’s disease is a social problem which influences economical and political life of the country. Media helps to spread the information concerning this issue and inform the society about the attempts of the government to overcome existing problem. Various non-profit organizations, private funds, political parties, and magazines contributed to the defining Alzheimer’s disease as social problem by informing the society about it and trying to change the situation for the better.
Public views Alzheimer’s disease as a real problem for the people and wants something to be done to improve the situation. Alzheimer’s disease has impact not only on a person who suffers from it but on his or her relatives as well. Statistic shows that “seven in 10 individuals with Alzheimer’s disease live at home” (Alzheimer’s Breakthrough Act, 2010, p. 2, 3). That is why the fact that Alzheimer’s disease is defined as a social problem reflects community values which include government’s concerns about life, health, and prosperity of the society, families and each individual particularly. Millions of people have already faced this problem and those who have no real life experience concerning this issue are well informed about Alzheimer’s disease thanks to the mass media. That is why different segments of the society have the same understanding of the existent problem and perceive it as a threat to future generations.
Alzheimer’s disease turns people’s lives upside down. It changes life of a person who has this disease and the rest of the family. People with this illness experience memory loss, they are not able to express their opinion, perform everyday tasks, communicate with their friends, and take care of themselves. As a general rule, family members become caregivers. Almost 60 percent of them are women. It is an extremely hard and time-consuming work to take care of people with this disease. As a result, caregivers are forced to quite their full time job in order to look after their relatives. In addition to financial hardships which families usually experience, psychological problems also have place. It is painful to observe the closest people suffering from this horrible disease. Feeling of injustice naturally comes into the hearts of people who either suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or have such person in their family.
It is hard to say whether or not there are some elements of social injustice associated with the problem of Alzheimer’s disease. The government is trying to improve the situation by providing money for the investigations in this field, creating special Public Health Services which take care of people with Alzheimer’s disease, and increasing the financial support for the families who look after their relatives. The society is also trying to support the people who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. That is why it would not be right to say that there is social injustice associated with people who have such problem. The issue concerning Alzheimer’s disease receives enough attention from the government and the society as well. That is why the only thing that is being unfair in regard to individuals who have Alzheimer’s disease is the disease itself.
Scientists still cannot explain the reasons why Alzheimer’s disease appears and develops. The information on the causes is not obtained yet. However, there is one hypothesis that the disease can be associated with plaques and tangles in the human brain. There are more suggestions concerning these issues; however, none of them is scientifically proven. That is why they cannot be taken seriously. The treatment that is used today does not help to stop the progression of the disease as well. In spite of these facts, there is surely a future hope that further researches will reveal the whole truth about this disease.
Scientists came up with a list of risk factors which may lead to Alzheimer’s disease. The first one is increased age because statistic shows that “one in 8 people over the age of 65, and nearly half of those over the age of 85 have Alzheimer’s disease” (Alzheimer’s Breakthrough Act, 2010, p. 2). The second factor is related to genetics. The research has shown that “2-5 percent of patients develop the disease in the fourth or fifth decade of life At least half of these early onset patients have inherited gene mutations associated with their Alzheimer's disease. Moreover, the children of a patient with early onset Alzheimer's disease who has one of these gene mutations has a 50% risk of developing Alzheimer's disease” (Crustal, 2011, par. 6). Diabetes, hypertension, artery disease, and blood cholesterol are also among risk factors. These all are individual problems which vary from person to person.
According to those risk factors such as age, genetic, and some particular illnesses, there are people who are more predisposed to Alzheimer's disease than others. So if a person is over the age of 85, diabetic, and has a relative who was suffering from this disease it is more likely that he or she can develop Alzheimer's disease. It will result in various symptoms which are associated with this disease. The problem will influence that person and his or her relatives as well.
The problem of Alzheimer's disease is related to people who already have it, their relatives or individuals who take care of them, and people who potentially may develop it in future. Since Alzheimer's disease equals to the tragedy for people who face this problem, it is hard to think that someone can actually benefit from it. However, the spread of this disease can be beneficial for some private offices who offer programs on memory restoration for people who suffer from memory loss. Another option can be different companies who stand for nontraditional medicine and claim that they created some kind of treatment to cure the disease or some remedy to prevent it. They can easily sell these products with doubtful quality and effect to people who want to become healthy or to those who are afraid to develop this disease.
There are lots of different programs and organizations which are trying to fight against Alzheimer's disease. However, at this point Alzheimer’s Breakthrough Act of 2009 remains the most significant and successful attempt on the way towards treating Alzheimer's disease. The Breakthrough Act is developed “to amend the Public Health Service Act to fund breakthroughs in Alzheimer’s disease research while providing more help to caregivers and increasing public education about prevention” (Alzheimer’s Breakthrough Act, 2010, p. 1). According to the Breakthrough Act, the funding for Alzheimer's research at the National Institutes of Health was increased to $2 billion. In order to unite all the researches and scientists working on this field, a National Summit on Alzheimer's was created as well.
As it is stated in the Breakthrough Act, the Director of the Institute is responsible for conducting and supporting research in the field of Alzheimer’s disease, developing new approaches towards this issue, investigating various therapies, and many other things (Alzheimer’s Breakthrough Act, 2010). Another strategy to deal with this problem is availability of call centers which provide 24-hour help for families and caregivers no matter where they live or what language they speak.
Social problems cannot be solved by the particular individuals. The whole society and the government of the country have to collaborate in order to achieve a common goal: provide safe and secure environment for every person. Alzheimer’s Breakthrough Act of 2009 became a significant event in the history of fighting against this terrible disease. Thanks to the work of hundreds of organizations, caregivers, researches, and government funding, there are chances that in nearest future scientist will find the way to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease.
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