Social Determinants of Health in Alzheimer Disease: Jessica Zwerling, MD, MS


The director of the Montefiore Hudson Valley Center of Excellence for Alzheimer’s Disease commented on social determinants of health in relation to telemedicine and community willingness to engage.

“The point I want to drive home is that when you have [conversations about] social determinants of health, [the resources have] to be culturally relevant. We need to be able to bring those resources that are culturally relevant to our patients.”

Social determinants of health have been an ongoing topic of discussion for patients with Alzheimer disease (AD) and dementia, as a move to telemedicine has initiated a shift in how care is provided, primarily virtually. According to Jessica Zwerling, MD, MS, director, Montefiore Hudson Valley Center of Excellence for Alzheimer’s Disease, associate professor of neurology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, bringing access to patients is crucial, and she stressed the need to assist senior centers in navigating important, virtual appointments to make the technological transition that much more convenient for older adults.

In conversation with NeurologyLive, Zwerling commented on the surrounding community’s willingness to commit to remaining culturally relevant and bring resources to incorporate technology, as well as to engage a culturally and educationally diverse population. For her and colleagues, Montefiore’s location in the Bronx, New York, and the surrounding area, offers a diverse patient population, making the need for personalized community engagement even more important.

Even during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Zwerling added, the Montefiore Health System was able to conduct a “stakeholder studio” entirely through Zoom, which engaged 99% of Black participants to talk about depression and its implications. The organization’s Center for Excellence for Alzheimer’s Disease (CEAD) was yet another area that thrived, as patients with dementia or AD were able to guide their own care alongside community members and experts. 

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