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Local News

Black History Month: Shining a Light on Alzheimer’s Disparities

Credit: iStock

Mike Moen

With Black History Month underway, Wisconsin researchers and support groups are highlighting the disparities in cases of Alzheimer’s disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said older Black Americans are about two times more likely than whites to have Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

As drugs designed to treat conditions accelerate toward the market, the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health noted Black adults are less likely to be included in the research. The school has made it a priority to focus on the Black population in an ongoing study.

Diane Beckley Milner, director of diversity, equity and inclusion for the Alzheimer’s Association Wisconsin Chapter, said participation is important.

“Without us being involved in those clinical trials as Black Americans, then the research, it’s not going to lend itself to giving accurate information,” Milner pointed out.

The university acknowledged Black individuals can be reluctant to participate in studies, citing historical trauma from events such as the Tuskegee experiment. Officials say when it comes to the UW study, Black volunteers account for 27% of the people enrolled, which is much higher than the state’s Black population, suggesting it provides hope in boosting research inclusivity.

Milner emphasized partnerships her group has with organizations such as the African Methodist Episcopal Church can help ease fears and create more awareness within the Black community.

“Having that partnership has proved to be very, very important and critical to making sure that people get information that they can trust,” Milner explained.

She added a common challenge her group has found in outreach is many Black Americans view cognitive decline as simply a sign of aging, and not a disease. The association also works with nursing organizations in hopes of educating more people within the Black population.

References:  

Black History Month Library of Congress 2023
Barriers to equity CDC 06/02/2021
Diagnosis disparity Nat’l Institutes of Health 12/16/2021
Alzheimer’s facts Alzheimer’s Assn. Wis. 2023

This story was written by Mike Moen, a producer at Public News Service, where this story first appeared.