The African-American Community Outreach Program (AACOP) is an initiative to increase public awareness of Alzheimer's disease and related memory disorders specifically within the North Carolina African-American community. Begun in 1995 as part of the Joseph and Kathleen Bryan Alzheimer's Disease Research Center (Bryan ADRC) at Duke University Medical Center, AACOP strives to improve and increase access to information and services related to Alzheimer's disease and other related disorders. AACOP also aims to serve as a conduit for the voice of the North Carolina African-American community regarding the health care needs of its elder population and the barriers that limit access to care.
WHY WAS AACOP ESTABLISHED?
AACOP was begun in an effort to reduce barriers that have traditionally impeded access to information and services available to help patients and families deal with late life memory changes such as those associated with Alzheimer's disease.
Alzheimer's disease is a devastating, degenerative brain disorder usually occurring in later life (after age 65). It is the fourth leading cause of death in adults and affects all demographic groups regardless of race, gender, or socioeconomic status. The illness affects entire families in that care for the affected individual usually falls on family members, most often spouses and/or children.
Despite the extent of the illness in all community sectors, African-Americans are generally under-represented in the groups receiving services for dementia in medical centers. This is likely due to a variety of complex issues involving social, cultural, and financial barriers. To appropriately address these issues, AACOP recruited a group of community volunteers from around North Carolina to serve as "Statewide Visitors."
WHO ARE THE AACOP STATEWIDE VISITORS?
The Statewide Visitors are African-American community leaders representing various social, religious, and political organizations. Through this network, the Bryan ADRC gains direct input from the African-American community regarding their attitudes, beliefs, and practices pertaining to memory loss. This information is used to better address the community's specific needs and to clarify misperceptions that may exist about Alzheimer's disease and other related disorders.
Statewide Visitors not only provide important input from the community to the Bryan ADRC, they also receive up-to-date information by attending conferences and meetings held on the Duke campus at which Bryan ADRC faculty present the latest news and resources on research strategies, research results, and developments in caregiving issues. At these meetings, working through AACOP, the Bryan ADRC seeks to equip the Statewide Visitors with information and knowledge which they can easily share, through their existing community roles, with the members of their local community.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF AACOP?
Through AACOP the Bryan ADRC has accomplished the following objectives:
- Improved the quality of life of African-Americans affected by AD and similar disorders;
- Assisted the Bryan ADRC in the delivery of culturally appropriate resources and services to the African-American population;
- Developed creative strategies to partner with African-American faith-based groups and other indigenous organizations to enhance effective service delivery;
- Developed and sustained a trusting relationship with the African-American population to facilitate the research goals and objectives of the Bryan ADRC.