THE STORY OF THE WOMEN’S ALZHEIMER’S MOVEMENT
WAM is the preeminent organization focused exclusively on women and Alzheimer’s. We were created to raise awareness around Alzheimer’s as a disease that discriminates against women, since two out of every three brains that develop Alzheimer’s belong to women–with women of color at even higher risk– and 2 out of 3 caregivers of all races and ethnicities being women as well. Until 10 years ago, the conventional thinking was that the higher incidence of Alzheimer’s in women simply reflected the fact that women tend to outlive men.
That narrative was disrupted back in 2010, when WAM founder Maria Shriver partnered with the Alzheimer’s Association on a ground-breaking report challenging the assumption that age alone accounted for the higher number of women with Alzheimer’s. Ever since that seminal Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Takes on Alzheimer’s, WAM and Shriver have taken every opportunity to highlight the disproportionate and particular impact of Alzheimer’s on women. Today, we can claim success that science and medicine accept the fact that women often develop Alzheimer’s for reasons involving their sex, gender and other factors specific to their lives.
WAM helped get us to that understanding in part by funding over $3.5 million in seed grants, which have resulted in millions more being invested in women-based Alzheimer’s research by government agencies, private corporations and foundations, and we’ve inspired countless other institutions to do the same. WAM has been at the forefront of moving the needle on public recognition of Alzheimer’s as a disease that not only affects more women than men, but also affects them differently. That is why in 2020, we opened the world’s first WAM Prevention Center with our partners at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas, providing women the lifestyle tools they need to minimize their chances of developing the disease. We are proud to have helped lead the charge in recognizing that women’s bodies and brains are unique when it comes to Alzheimer’s.
Having helped define who is impacted by the disease, WAM now turns its attention just as intensively to our understanding of the why. Like many organizations dedicated to eradicating Alzheimer’s, we believed we might be closer to understanding this disease by now. Although we’ve learned much about the disease that gives us hope for the future, sadly, we have yet to find a cure or discover why women are especially vulnerable.
WAM recognizes that to achieve success in this next battle of uncovering the why, we will need to drill down, think big and fund research into women’s health on a global scale. We believe this is only possible with the creation of a coalition of like-minded organizations committed to challenging ourselves on every scientific, political, social and economic level so we can finally answer the question of why this disease is a leading cause of death in women.
Women are pleading for answers to their many health needs, especially when it comes to Alzheimer’s and other issues that put them at higher risk for developing the disease. WAM is committed to working with partners everywhere to help provide women with the answers they crave. We set out 10 years ago to help change the narrative about Alzheimer’s. We did that. Now let’s change the future of Alzheimer’s itself, one woman at a time.
Our mission is to discover why Alzheimer’s discriminates against women and communities of color and to prepare women and their families for the impact of Alzheimer’s by providing them with information and tools to help prevent the disease.
We envision a future in which Alzheimer’s will no longer destroy the lives of women and their families.
We work to change the future for women and Alzheimer’s by focusing on the four pillars: research, education, advocacy and clinical care.
- We fund critical gender based research to advance our knowledge of how Alzheimer’s affects women.
- We educate the public about Alzheimer’s through summits, national polls, reports and educational guides.
- We advocate at all levels of government for policies, increased funding and other social, political and economic changes that will move the needle on Alzheimer’s.
- We provide on the ground services to give women the medical guidance they need to reduce their risk for developing the disease.