More than 16 million individuals in the U.S. — and 97,000 in Minnesota — live with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRDs). There is no known cure for ADRD and people with the diseases live from 3-20 years after their onset.
“We know African-Americans are twice as likely to have dementia compared to their Caucasian counterparts in the U.S. and are less likely to be diagnosed,” says Professor Joseph Gaugler from the School of Public Health.
The dementia rates for African immigrants living in the United States may be even higher compared to those born here. But the extent of the problem is hard to gauge and address due to limited research on the dementia prevalence among African immigrants, and a lack of information on their care needs and the community-based resources available to help them.
To fill these gaps, Gaugler is leading a community-engaged assessment to identify and understand dementia prevalence, care needs, and patient resources in the African immigrant community in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Minnesota is home to the nation’s fifth largest African-born community and the largest population of East African immigrants in the U.S.
“This is one of the first projects to identify the extent of dementia care needs and resources among African immigrants,” says Gaulger. “In the long-term, the findings will serve as a roadmap for similar projects in other diverse communities across the nation and help inform future collaborative initiatives that promote equity in dementia care for underserved populations.”
The research is being conducted through a partnership between the school’s Families and Long-Term Care Projects (FLTC) program and African Career, Education, and Resources, Inc. (ACER), a Twin Cities organization working to advance equity and eliminate disparities for the area’s large and growing African community.
“We are thrilled that the community-based research partnership between the School of Public Health and ACER will raise understanding of early memory loss in the African immigrant community as well as identify resources and improve care for our people with dementia,” says Wynfred Russell, founding executive director and director of strategic partnerships for ACER.
The study includes a project advisory board consisting of representatives from ACER, FLTC, and key organizational partners and residents. The researchers and board will jointly develop culturally appropriate data collection tools, forms, and procedures to identify and understand dementia care needs and resources in the African immigrant community. Those tools will be deployed and validated during the study and made available to researchers for similar investigations inside and outside Minnesota.
The study is funded through a grant from the University of Minnesota’s Program for Health Disparities Research and expected to be completed by August 2020.