Understanding the scope of a problem and its impact is essential to developing effective policies and programs. Surveillance — collecting data, insight and information — is an essential function of public health. Through data collection and analysis, policymakers and public health officials can better understand the extent of a health issue, its impact, and drive positive changes to address the problem.

To help the public health community collect data and use evidence to inform practice, the Alzheimer’s Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed this topic-specific issue map — Data and Evidence for Action. It offers compelling data on the topic, a primer explaining the need for action, suggests related HBI Road Map actions, and provides case studies to demonstrate successful implementation.

Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System

Each year, every state conducts a public health survey through the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). States may collect data through the BRFSS on the impact of cognitive decline using:

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The Cognitive Module

The BRFSS Cognitive Module provides demographic, geographic and socioeconomic data regarding subjective cognitive decline (SCD) — that is, the self-reported increase in confusion or memory loss that is happening more often. The module asks about memory and cognitive abilities as well as any impact these difficulties in thinking may have on everyday life. More and more research indicates that SCD is a strong predictor of future dementia risk.
 
Over the 2015-2016 BRFSS surveys, 49 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia used the Cognitive Module. View the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report for in-depth analysis of this aggregated data.
 
With support from the Healthy Aging Program at the CDC and a variety of state-based partners, the Alzheimer’s Association is currently pursuing a nationwide campaign for all states to include the Cognitive Module in either the 2019 or 2020 BRFSS surveys.

BRFSS Cognitive Module
Purple Indicates state committed to using module in 2019 or 2020

 

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BRFSS
Find state-specific BRFSS data below:

No known public health action at this time.

Quick facts

Learn how BRFSS data helps us better understand the impact of cognitive impairment on health:

The Caregiver Module

The BRFSS Caregiver Module provides data about caregivers and the challenges they face. This module asks about a care recipient's health problems and greatest care needs as well as provides insight into the scope and burden of caregiving responsibilities. The Caregiver Module enables us to compare the experiences of Alzheimer's and dementia caregivers with caregivers of people with other conditions. In 2009, three states and the District of Columbia used the module while in 2010, five states asked the questions. Most recently, 24 states used the Caregiver Module in 2015.
 
Over the 2015-2017 BRFSS surveys, 45 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia used the Caregiver Module. Analysis of this aggregated dataset is forthcoming.
 
With support from the Alzheimer's Disease + Healthy Aging Program at the CDC and a variety of state-based partners, the Alzheimer’s Association will pursue a nationwide campaign for all states to include the Caregiver Module in either the 2021 or 2022 BRFSS surveys.

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Select Filters
BRFSS
Find state-specific BRFSS data below:

No known public health action at this time.

Quick facts

Learn how BRFSS data helps us better understand the impact of dementia caregiving:

 

Needs assessment

Comprehensive needs assessments are at the core of a state’s ability to effectively use information to develop, implement, and maintain strategies to improve the health and well-being of their population. Public health agencies have a high level of expertise related to developing and conducting needs assessments which can be easily adapted and applied to ensure broader incorporation of cognitive health and impairment into state public health improvement plans, state plans focused exclusively on Alzheimer’s and other dementias, or related health promotion and injury reduction plans.
 
To help states better understand the needs and assets of their populations, set priorities for future action, and better address cognitive impairment within their communities, the Alzheimer’s Association in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) created the Needs Assessment Toolkit: Guidance and Resources for State Public Health Agencies on Comprehensive Needs Assessments Related to Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias.

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Needs assessment resources

Tools for state governments to better understand their needs and assets:


 

Additional data

Former Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher said, “In public health, we can’t do anything without surveillance. That’s where public health begins.” Quality data collection and analysis equips policymakers, providers and public health officials with the necessary information to improve the health and well-being within their communities. More and more data collection efforts are focusing on the the unique challenges and needs posed by Alzheimer’s, dementia and cognitive impairment.
 
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) operates the Healthy Aging Data Portal, a collection of key indicators of health and well-being, screenings and vaccinations, and mental health among older adults at the national and state levels.

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Featured Resources

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Cognitive Aging - Progress in Understanding and Opportunities for Action
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Healthy Aging Data Portal

Additional Resources

American College of Preventive Medicine Brain Health Course
Alzheimer's Association Healthy Living for Your Brain and Body: Tips from the Latest Research

State-specific action you can take

Communities are taking public health action against Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Find out how the disease impacts your state and what you can do to make Alzheimer's the next public health success story.

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