Article by: SUSAN J. SPALDING 

Alzheimer’s is the most underrecognized public health crisis of the 21st century and was largely overlooked as the two houses of Congress came to a temporary agreement on continued funding of the federal government. No serious conversation concerning America’s long-term spending can occur without addressing the public-health crisis that is Alzheimer’s disease.

We currently spend $203 billion each year caring for the 5 million Americans who have Alzheimer’s. Age is the most significant risk factor, and as our population grows older, the projected costs will bankrupt America. Unless something is done, Alzheimer’s will cost an estimated $1.2 trillion by 2050.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., took bold action to address this public health issue. Last Thursday, Klobuchar, along with Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, introduced a resolution recognizing the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s as an urgent national priority. This bipartisan action calls for doubling research funding by 2015 and for an eventual research investment of $2 billion per year. If the resolution is approved, it will be a milestone event.

Congress has an even more immediate opportunity to address the Alzheimer’s crisis. An $80 million research appropriation is being considered by the congressional budget conference committee. Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., has a voice in these deliberations and has shown leadership on Alzheimer’s issues. We ask her to do even more by rallying her colleagues to support this crucial appropriation.

The Alzheimer’s epidemic is poised to bankrupt our health care systems and our nation. Now is the time to act.

Susan J. Spalding is chief executive officer of the Alzheimer’s Association Minnesota-North Dakota Chapter.