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VIDEO: Find out about a groundbreaking community dementia programme

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A groundbreaking programme in San Francisco sees the YMCA working with scientists to innovate a better way to community-based dementia care.

It comes on the back of funding from the National Institute of Health to Posit Science, for the development of a model-community based programme for dementia prevention in collaboration with the YMCA of San Francisco.

NR Times spoke to Posit Science CEO Dr Henry Mahncke, and Chip Rich vice president of operations at the YMCA of San Francisco about the project (watch the interview above).

On the collaboration, Dr Mahncke said: “In my own life, my mom is 85, she lives in a wonderful residential community in Washington, DC. And she takes classes and things like Latin or the history of World War One, but there’s no class she can take on how can I build a stronger, more resilient brain to resist Alzheimer’s disease.

“So that problem had been on my mind for quite some time. And then very fortunately, I was introduced by a colleague of mine at posit science to Chip here at the YMCA.

 “And we came over and had a wonderful first meeting Chip and talked about the incredibly good work, you’re doing a community based health, thought, hey, why don’t we put together the science of reducing dementia risk with the good work of the YMCA and being able to reach out to people and community based health health health programme?”

Chip Rich of the YMCA added: “Henry and colleagues had the intervention, we had the know how on some of the things that they were looking at incorporating and we have the desire to add this to a portfolio of prevention, community based health programmes. So it was a match made in heaven right from the start.”

It’s estimated that 5.8 million people in the US have Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, with greater risk among women, minorities and underserved communities. Dementia prevalence and costs will grow without an effective therapeutic approach.  

On America’s current approach to dementia care, Dr Mahncke said: “The challenge for dementia in America, but this is true worldwide is, you know, on the average, many societies are getting older. And that means that the number of people who have dementia is going up, you know, our bodies are lasting longer, thanks to wonderful health care, but our brains are not necessarily lasting longer.

“And the big challenge here is we’ve approached this as a pharmaceutical problem, like, hey, let’s get a new drug that’s going to treat or prevent or cure dementia. And hey, that work is impressive. The scientists involved are doing great work. But the challenge is that it just hasn’t paid off.”

“So far. You look at the last 20 years development and Alzheimer’s and dementia, and we have no new drugs that can treat this disorder. And that really tells us that we need to start think of this as a a healthy brain resilience problem, not as a disease that’s necessarily going to be treated with a drug.”

The project will leverage the behavioural change infrastructure developed by theYMCA’s current standing diabetes prevention programme, which prevented new cases of type 2 diabetes in those who took part. When asked on what impact he hopes the dementia prevention programme will make Dr Mahncke said:

 “I think the diabetes prevention programme, as you call out, you know, it sets the mark for how big an impact we can have on what’s thought of as a, you know, a meta, and what is a metabolic disease?”

 “I think we’re going to be able to overtime, you know, lower dementia incidences quite substantially where this programme starts to be able to get advantage of it.”

“If there was a drug that was going to reduce the onset of dementia by a 40%, risk factor, you know, it would be it would be the biggest piece of medical news, the past 20 years. And I think that working together, posit science and YMCA are going to be able to put something together that’s going to have a similar impact like that.”

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