Uncovering the Impact of Social Determinants on the Risk of Alzheimer Disease: Michael Yassa, PhD


The professor of neurology at the University of California, Irvine, talked about social determinants of health in Alzheimer disease and the importance of having diverse populations in clinical trials. [WATCH TIME: 4 minutes]

WATCH TIME: 4 minutes

“One of the pieces of evidence that we always point to is that the number of individuals from these groups that are represented in clinical trials for Alzheimer disease is very modest compared to the majority. We definitely need to do better there but it is tricky. Being able to engage directly with communities of color and trying to understand their experiences they're going through in an authentic and meaningful way is important.”

June is Alzheimer and Brain Awareness Month, an event dedicated to raising awareness about Alzheimer disease (AD), educating others, and promoting patient advocacy for patients living with the condition. One notable issue in the field gaining attention is the risk of AD among patients in racial and ethnic minority groups as well as their lack of representation of these populations in AD research.

Research shows that as the United States population continues to age, the prevalence of AD and related dementias is estimated to double by the year 2050, having reached 12.7 million cases.1 According to reports, the incidence of AD has differed between race and ethnicity, with higher rates observed in African American and Latino studies in comparison with nonHispanic White patients. Research investigating the risk of AD among these populations of patients has been limited, despite a handful of studies that show that race and ethnicity play important risk factors in developing AD.2

Michael Yassa, PhD, University of California, Irvine, sat down in an interview with NeurologyLive® to talk about his research on addressing racial and ethnic disparities in AD. He talked about how social and structural determinants of health contribute to the increased risk of AD in marginalized communities. He also shared a few steps that can be taken to authentically engage with communities of color authentically for AD research. In addition, he explained why it is important to have adequate representation of marginalized communities in clinical trials for AD and other research studies.

1. Lim U, Park SY. Racial and ethnic disparities in Alzheimer's dementia. Aging (Albany NY). 2022;14(22):8884-8885. doi:10.18632/aging.204421
2. Matthews KA, Xu W, Gaglioti AH, et al. Racial and ethnic estimates of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias in the United States (2015-2060) in adults aged ≥65 years. Alzheimers Dement. 2019;15(1):17-24. doi:10.1016/j.jalz.2018.06.3063
3. Yassa M. Addressing Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Alzheimer’s disease in the State of California. LinkedIn. Published June 1, 2023. Accessed June 28, 2023. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/addressing-racial-ethnic-disparities-alzheimers-disease-michael-yassa/
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