WASHINGTON, D.C. — USAgainstAlzheimer's and the General Board of Church & Society (GBCS) of The United Methodist Church recently announced the launch of the Faith United Against Alzheimer’s Coalition (FUAAC), a cooperative effort to mobilize all elements of the faith community in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.
As founders of the coalition, USAgainstAlzheimer’s and GBCS will work with faith-based organizations to promote dignity, compassionate care and quality of life for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, provide support for families, and call on industry leaders, community stakeholders and policymakers to work urgently to find disease-modifying treatments and a cure.
Immediate activities will focus on building FUAAC membership and educating the more than 11 million members of The United Methodist Church about Alzheimer’s disease. This will be achieved by creating dementia-friendly programming for congregations and faith groups, and advocating for increased funding for Alzheimer’s and dementia research, and through a newly launched FaithUnitedAgainstAlzheimer’s.
“As with the HIV/AIDS and breast cancer movements, we need to mobilize a massive crusade against a global Alzheimer’s epidemic which is visiting a crushing burden on American families and, in particular, women and minorities,” said George Vradenburg, co-founder and chairman of USAgainstAlzheimer’s. “As one of the largest Protestant denominations in the U.S., The United Methodist Church is positioned to be a leading voice on this great social-justice issue of our time, as it has been on so many other critical issues.”
Top health crisis of century
Alzheimer’s is poised to be the top health crisis of this century, claiming 500,000 lives in the United States in 2010 alone. It is a uniquely devastating disease, not only destroying the one’s memories and cognitive capabilities, but making it impossible for people to live fulfilling and independent lives.
For families, caregivers and society at large, Alzheimer’s and related dementias can be emotionally and financially ruinous. It is a disease without parallel, and there is neither a cure nor a means of slowing the progression. And cases of the disease are skyrocketing.
“Clergy and congregations are on the frontlines of this devastating disease, offering compassionate support to people who suffer from Alzheimer’s and their families,” said the Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, GBCS general secretary. “United Methodists historically have been on the leading edge of addressing critical health needs across the globe. Alzheimer’s is just such a critical disease, and we need to lift our voices to influence public policy that will fund research to address and cure this disease.”
Henry-Crowe pointed out that the denomination has a long, successful track record in mobilizing, advocating and fundraising around many health issues, including malaria, tobacco, and obesity. It also has been a leader in partnering with others in the faith community to marshal forces on critical health issues.
USAgainstAlzheimer’s is an innovative and relentless advocacy organization transforming the scale and trajectory of the challenge to Alzheimer's. USAgainstAlzheimer’s believes in the power of “US” to create the change needed to turn the tide on Alzheimer’s by 2020, while working to de-stigmatize the disease, improve community support for those with Alzheimer’s and their families, and spread a message of real hope for a cure.
In 2014, USAgainstAlzheimer’s launched ClergyAgainstAlzheimer’s, a diverse, multi-faith network of clergy working to focus the U.S.’s attention on the impact of Alzheimer’s disease on American families.
As part of its mission, ClergyAgainstAlzheimer’s published Seasons of Caring: Meditations for Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregivers, which contains more than 140 original meditations from faith leaders and care specialists representing a wide and diverse range of major religious traditions.
The Rev. Cynthia Abrams, GBCS director for Health & Wholeness, said Lynda Everman, a lay member of the United University United Methodist Church in Irvine, Calif., brought this opportunity to the social-justice agency’s attention.
“We are thankful for dedicated lay people, such as Lynda, whose commitment and passion remind us that when United Methodists set their mind to transforming change, we are quick to jump in and roll up our sleeves,” Abrams said. “It’s electrifying to imagine our denomination actively influencing public policy to find a cure for Alzheimer’s.”
Virginia Biggar, director of ClergyAgainstAlzheimer’s and the leader at USAgainstAlzheimer’s in the relationship with FUAAC, expressed gratitude that The United Methodist Church, through the GBCS, will make this a key area of focus. “I’m confident this will inspire a wide range of faith organizations to join us as we raise these powerful voices on behalf of the millions worldwide facing Alzheimer’s,” she said.
“The support and partnership of the UMC represents a major step forward in accomplishing the vision and mission of ClergyAgainstAlzheimer's,” said Lynda Everman, a founding member of ClergyAgainstAlzheimer’s and WomenAgainstAlzheimer’s. “The voice and influence of men and women of faith is not to be underestimated in accelerating progress toward our shared dream of a world without Alzheimer's. I'm absolutely thrilled and deeply thankful to reach this milestone, and optimistic about what we will achieve together.”
USAgainstAlzheimer’s is an innovative and relentless advocacy organization demanding a transformative solution to Alzheimer's. Driven by the suffering of millions of families, USAgainstAlzheimer’s presses for greater urgency from government, industry and the scientific community in the quest for an Alzheimer's cure – accomplishing this through effective leadership, collaboration, advocacy, and strategic investments. We are committed to ending Alzheimer’s by: accelerating the means of prevention and treatments; increasing the resources committed to stopping Alzheimer’s; and delivering dramatic improvements in the systems to support those living with Alzheimer's and their care partners, while continuing our fight for a cure.
About the General Board of Church & Society of The United Methodist Church
The General Board of Church & Society is one of four international general program boards of The United Methodist Church. Prime responsibility of the board is to seek implementation of the Social Principles and other policy statements on Christian social concerns of the General Conference, the denomination’s highest policy-making body. The board’s primary areas of ministry are Advocacy, Education & Leadership Formation, United Nations & International Affairs, and resourcing these areas for the denomination.
Ranit Schmelzer, 202-538-1065 / firstname.lastname@example.org
General Board of Church & Society:
Wayne Rhodes, 202-488-5630 / email@example.com