"The formation of this consortium is the first of its kind between a specialist in Alzheimer research and an expert in the computing technology industry", stated William Thies, vice president, medical and scientific affairs for the Alzheimer's Association. "It is our hope that through this effort we will improve the quality of life for millions of people with Alzheimer's disease, their families, friends and professional health care partners."
Managed by the Alzheimer's Association, the ETAC consortium will fund research grants to explore new ways to help delay the onset of disabling symptoms, compensate for functional impairments and postpone and/or prevent placement in residential care settings. The Alzheimer's Association and Intel will invite other technology companies, universities, industry labs, government agencies and voluntary health organisations to join the consortium and to help fund this research.
"By working with the Alzheimer's Association we hope to stimulate innovative research that uncovers how computing and communications technologies can support behaviours that help prevent and detect disease, foster independence and improve quality of life", stated David Tennenhouse, vice president and director of research for Intel.
There are currently 4 million Americans living with Alzheimer's. This number is expected to surge as 76 million "baby boomers" begin to turn 65 in 2011. In addition to those with the disease, another 19 million family members are affected by its devastation. Caregivers and loved ones are burdened with the time and resource consuming tasks of supporting the individual with Alzheimer's physically, cognitively, emotionally and spiritually.
The Everyday Technologies for Alzheimer Care consortium grew out of several separate, ongoing efforts at the Alzheimer's Association and Intel. In 2001, the Alzheimer's Association convened a technology research group to review the impact of emerging technologies on the quality of care and health services for Alzheimer's disease. The group consisted of caregivers as well as experts from diverse disciplines including bioengineering, robotics, artificial intelligence, communications, systems design, software engineering, medicine, nursing, biology, economics, finance and business.
In addition, the Alzheimer's Association is the largest private funder of Alzheimer research, having put nearly $140 million toward research into the causes, treatment, prevention and cure of the disease. The association's research grants programme encourages work by new investigators and innovative, state-of-the-art projects.
"The ETAC consortium represents an expansion of the Alzheimer's Association's medical and scientific research programme into medical and electronic technology", added William Thies. "ETAC is a first step toward building a consortium of businesses, health care groups and aging organisations that share the widespread industry concern that current care systems and models will be inadequate to accommodate the increasing demand for individualised care."
At the same time, Intel continues to fund and conduct research on the ways in which computing and communications technologies could support the daily health and wellness needs of people of all ages in their homes and everyday lives. Through its university research programme, Intel awards worldwide university research grants for projects designed to advance key focus areas, including those in the area of consumer health and wellness.
Additionally, Intel's Proactive Health strategic research project is developing in-home technology prototypes to test applications that address the needs of the world's aging population. An example of this technology is a wireless "sensor network" made up of thousands of small, sensing devices that could someday be embedded throughout the home to monitor important behavioural tendencies such as sleep and eating patterns, location and also send prompts to a person such as reminders to take medication.
The data collected by the sensor network could help in the detection and prevention of dementia or other medical conditions, as well as help a caregiver locate a patient in need. The ETAC consortium will build a national alliance of research and development experts from diverse disciplines including software engineering, medicine, and business to identify and harness technologies such as sensor networks that will address the many care needs of people with Alzheimer's disease and ease the burden to their caregivers and loved ones.