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Culture Colors Views on Alzheimer's Disease
Minorities have different perspectives on the illness, studies find

SUNDAY, June 19 (HealthDay News) -- Public health education on the causes and symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, along with treatment and research, must take into account people's cultural beliefs if they are going to succeed, according to three studies presented Sunday at a special conference in Washington, D.C.

The studies -- which looked at black, Hispanic and Hmong Americans (of Southeast Asian descent) -- found that awareness and beliefs about the disease varied widely by ethnicity.

For example, when compared with whites, many more blacks and Hispanics in the studies identified stress as a significant risk factor for Alzheimer's. Among Hmong people living in the United States, religion influenced opinions as to the cause of dementia in older people, with most Hmong caregivers believing that confusion in older people is simply a normal part of aging.

"Alzheimer's impacts all ethnicities and, as these studies show, an effective outreach program must account for existing and meaningful cultural perceptions about this disease," Peggye Dilworth-Anderson, a professor in the department of health policy and administration in the School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said in a prepared statement.

"Minority populations will see dramatic increases in Alzheimer's in their communities in the future, so we need to act now to ensure that these communities are knowledgeable about the disease," said Dilworth-Anderson, who is a member of the Alzheimer's Association's board of directors.

The studies were reported at the association's International Conference on the Prevention of Dementia.

"People's perception of disease impacts how we talk to them, assess and diagnose them, treat them, recruit them for research trials, and get them involved in the Alzheimer's community," Dilworth-Anderson said. "Studies like these three help the development and dissemination of culturally appropriate materials so we can broaden the community we reach with information, support, services and research."

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about Alzheimer's disease.

Copyright © 2002 ScoutNews, LLC. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: Alzheimer's Association, news release, June 19, 2005

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