Improving Social Equity in Dementia Prevention and Care

WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Jeff Zimman, Co-Founder of Posit Science, which makes the brain training app BrainHQ, will address the annual What’s Next Longevity Innovation Summit in Washington DC (held this year virtually December 1-2) regarding steps to improve social equity in dementia prevention and care.

Zimman will share data from two studies: (1) the ACTIVE Study dementia results, showing that a group of healthy older adults followed for 20 years, who used BrainHQ training for just 10-18 hours in the first 1-35 months of the study, experienced a significant reduction in both dementia risk and dementia incidence compared to the control, and (2) the Australian National University Study among patients with pre-dementia showing that 8 hours of BrainHQ training (in combination with two hours of consulting on diet and exercise) significantly reduced Alzheimer’s risk after just 8 weeks — which persisted in the three-month and six-month follow-ups.

Findings from 200+ published papers on BrainHQ studies (across varied populations) show benefits, including gains in standard measures of cognition (e.g., attention processing speed, memory, executive function), in standard measures of mood and affect (e.g., depressive symptoms, confidence and control, anxiety/stress/fatigue), in standard measures of quality of life (e.g., health related quality of life, health outcomes, self-rated health, healthcare costs) and in real-world activities (gait, balance, driving, instrumental activities of daily living, work).

“Proving the effectiveness of a digital health tool is not enough,” Zimman will tell the conference. “We need to leverage the inherent benefits of digital health to address access to healthcare inequities.”

Zimman will discuss steps taken to improve access to underserved communities, beginning with building BrainHQ as a self-directed telehealth program (that anyone can access anywhere from a smartphone, tablet, or computer — even through public access in libraries). BrainHQ subscriptions are modestly priced, at as little as $8 a month, but since that can still be a barrier, BrainHQ is also offered for free through leading Medicare Advantage plans, senior centers, retirement communities, and libraries. Users can download the app and use a free exercise for free every day, called the “Daily Spark.”

BrainHQ incorporates accessibility guidelines for the visually or hearing impaired, and the exercises can be found in 12 languages, including Spanish. BrainHQ also is available for free through many dual-eligible Medicare-Medicaid plans – reaching underserved populations.

One of the earliest population health studies included measuring cognitive abilities in determining causes of healthcare inequities. The researchers found it accounted for most, but not all, of the inequities. That suggests improving cognitive abilities should be at the top of anyone’s list on addressing social determinants of health.

Zimman advocates three simple steps to improve access to dementia care. More studies that speak to underserved populations; a dementia messaging shift from fear to how behavioral change can improve daily life; and encouraging every Medicare patient to insist on the cognitive health check-up and planning - now mandated by Medicare, but seldom offered – as part of their annual physical.