A pilot program, part of an ongoing collaboration between the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Research and Development and NIA, has so far resulted in successfully recruiting more than 60 veterans for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias research. As part of the program, the VA and NIA are partnering with the NIA-funded Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centers (ADRCs) to increase veteran participation in research on Alzheimer’s and related dementias. Strategic priorities for the pilot include recruiting veterans, especially from diverse populations, and investigating unique risk factors for this population. Research coordinators at each participating ADRC have worked directly with VA and NIA staff to identify and address challenges, develop pragmatic solutions, and share best practices and materials to increase veteran outreach and sustain enrollment.
“The Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centers program is a unique, nationwide resource ideally positioned for this type of research partnership and community initiatives,” said Nina Silverberg, Ph.D., director of the ADRC program. “This VA-NIA pilot is an example of how ADRCs can help bring together agencies and communities for the common goal of research aimed at finding effective prevention strategies, diagnostics, and treatments for Alzheimer’s and related dementias that work for everyone.”
The VA-NIA collaboration pilot effort has made significant progress, despite the challenges of pandemic-related limitations on in-person activities. The ADRCs have so far conducted more than 15 outreach events, communicated with more than 300 veterans, and recruited more than 60 veterans into Alzheimer’s and related dementias research. Further, the establishment of local veteran engagement groups with their VA hospital partners is a key focus of the ADRCs in the pilot. The veteran engagement groups will be one of many mechanisms to obtain input and feedback from veterans. Continuing collaboration between NIA and the VA will build on this national network foundation.
“One of our highest priorities is to ensure that Veterans get access to the cutting-edge approaches available only through clinical research,” said Dr. Rachel Ramoni, VA’s chief research and development officer. “Our partnership with NIA-funded world-class experts is essential to fulfill that promise to Veterans at risk for or living with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia.”
Future prospects for the collaboration include expanding to other ADRCs and adding and improving materials and processes to recruit participants. Recruitment materials, including a poster and an informational flyer for American Indian veterans, are already available.