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With dementia being one of the fastest growing public health problems, there are several workplace strategies health execs can implement.
Dementia recently has been deemed the “top public health crisis,” according to multiple reports.
In an October 10, 2019 opinion piece in the Orlando Sentinel, four former U.S. surgeons general-Richard Carmona, MD, Joycelyn Elders, MD, Antonia Novello, MD, and David Satcher, MD-called attention to the rapid rise of the disease.
A 2019 report in the journal Lancet, noted, “Dementia is one of the fastest-growing public health problems,” while a 2017 Lancet Commission report on dementia called it “the greatest global challenge for health and social care in the 21st century.”
According to Martin Tolar, MD, PhD, founder, president and CEO of Alzheon, a biopharmaceutical company in Framingham, Massachusetts, health executives should be agile when addressing dementia in a number of ways.
First, businesses should have a sense of urgency about the impact of Alzheimer’s on their employees.
“Either your baby boomers, who you rely on for experience, judgment and calm in a storm, or millennials, who are increasingly getting called upon to care for their aging parents,” Tolar says. “Alzheimer's is not a retiree issue, it’s affecting your current workforce. The damage is going on now in our brains. It’s not something you catch once you are retired.”
He recommends health executives bring cognitive fitness and brain health into workplace programs just as some do cardiovascular fitness.
Related: Wearables Help Detect Dementia
Another way how dementia should be addressed is to invest in your older employees who have the skills and experience that a business needs, if they are continuing work into their late 60s and 70s.
“Foster an environment where ageism is rejected and offer additional assistance for employees who may be struggling to adopt workplace efficiency tools,” he recommends.
Another way to address dementia is to demand that politicians do more to support research in therapies that have a chance to get to patients within the next five years.
“(Health executives should) ask the question of candidates in our upcoming election, where they stand on Alzheimer's research,” he says. “Ask them what the government is doing to get a treatment within five years, for the 50% of baby boomers who will reach 65 by that time.”
Lastly, Tolar recommends health executives to ask if a company’s investment or business development strategy considers Alzheimers a “no fly zone,” or if either are taking a “let someone else fix the problem” approach?
“Show the managerial courage to break this paradigm, and lean in to invest in the problem,” he says. “It’s not altruism, it’s to protect your company’s workforce.”
Showing the courage is also a great way to demonstrate your values to the broader audience of stakeholders, beyond investors.