Significant headway has been made in the fight against Alzheimer's disease in the San Diego region in the past year, but the hard work is still to come, according to a report presented Tuesday to the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.
The Alzheimer's Project was launched by the board in March 2014. The unprecedented regional initiative works to advance clinical research, improve health care, educate residents, support patients and their caregivers and eventually find a cure for the illness.
"The silver tsunami is upon us," Supervisor Greg Cox said before the group presented its annual report to the board. "Now is the time to make sure our residents not only live well, but age well."
Supervisor Dianne Jacob issued the call to action last year for the community to unite to fight Alzheimer's.
Today's annual report presentation was designed to learn how far the effort had come and to learn what comes next.
"I don't think there is any other part of the country that has this," Jacob said. "The over- 65 population is growing quicker than the younger population."
The Board of Supervisors heard from two doctors, county officials, a nonprofit group and San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who pledged the city's support in the collaborative effort.
"San Diego will find a cure for Alzheimer's, I'm convinced," Faulconer said. "It's because of the collaboration. Let's keep pushing."
The Alzheimer's Project is divided into four areas, including a cure roundtable aimed at drug development; a clinical roundtable focused on standards of practice for screening, evaluation and diagnosis; a care roundtable for those prone to wandering, training for care providers and first-responders; and a public awareness and education effort that also offers classes on Alzheimer's.
So far, according to Jacob, the Alzheimer's Project has strengthened the safety net through improvements in the Sheriff's Department's Take Me Home program; launched a research incubator for brain researchers; won a $2.5 million grant for San Diego State University to boost training for the next generation of geriatric health care workers; and developed the region's first standards of care.
About 62,000 residents in the region have dementia or Alzheimer's, amounting to about 8 percent of the 55 and older population, according to San Diego County Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Macchione. That number is expected to grow to about 94,000 by 2030.
Alzheimer's San Diego is a nonprofit organization getting the word out about the disease, while also helping to find a cure.
"Not a day does by that someone doesn't walk into our office and says `I wish I knew about you three years ago,"' Executive Director Mary Ball said. "But if we are going to find a cure, we need people for clinical trials."