Healthy Brain | Illinois Prevention Research Center | University of Illinois at Chicago

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By 2040, the United States will be home to 79.7 million people over 65 years old, nearly double the population of older Americans in 2011. The population of the “very old” – those over 85 years old – in the U.S. is expected to triple over the same period, reaching 14.1 million in 2040.

The association between aging and cognitive decline has been well documented.

One in eight adults aged 60 and older (12.7%) report an increase in severity or frequency of confusion or memory loss over the previous 12 months, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This decline becomes more dramatic with age. One in four persons in their 80s is diagnosed with dementia. The high prevalence of dementia, coupled with the aging of the population, will result in growing numbers of individuals with dementia in the U.S.

Health disparities will increase the vulnerability of U.S. population to cognitive decline.

Alzheimer’s disease is twice as common among older Latinos as for non-Latino whites, and African Americans experience higher rates of death from Alzheimer’s disease. With 28 percent of older adults (20.2 million people) projected to be racial or ethnic minorities in 2030, cognitive decline is a significant public health issue.

Several years ago, Prevention Research Centers in the Healthy Aging Research Network, funded by the CDC, conducted focus groups about brain health with more than 500 older adults of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. The researchers found:

  • Many older adults had not read or heard about brain health in the media.
  • They perceived barriers to seeking information about brain health, including confusing messages in the media.
  • Different racial groups preferred different channels of information dissemination.
  • Communication strategies could focus on shared perceptions of aging well among different racial/ethnic groups, such as living longer with intact cognitive function. Health promotions also could target specific racial/ethnic groups with culturally sensitive messages.

As part of the Healthy Brain Research Network, Illinois PRC is working to advance The Healthy Brain Initiative’s road map.

In one of our special interest projects, Illinois PRC investigators are working with communities to advance the Healthy Brain Initiative Road Map.

In July 2013, the CDC and the Alzheimer’s Association released The Healthy Brain Initiative: The Public Health Road Map for State and National Partnerships, 2013–2018 to advance cognitive health as a vital, integral component of public health.

The Illinois PRC works to achieve the goals of the Healthy Brain Initiative road map, by focusing on actions related to the goal of educating and empowering the nation about cognitive health of older persons.


Illinois PRC researchers on this special interest project offer expertise in aging, brain health, and communications to deliver messages about brain health, develop content and consistency of messaging, and implement culturally sensitive approaches, messages, and dissemination efforts.

This project is led by David Marquez, PhD, associate professor of kinesiology, whose research focuses on disparities in physical activity and disease or disability among underserved populations, especially Latinos. Susan L. Hughes, DSW, and Renae Smith-Ray, PhD, are co-investigators on this project.


The Illinois PRC collaborates in the Healthy Brain Research Network, funded by the CDC’s Division of Population Health. The network establishes and advances a public health research, translation, and dissemination agenda that promotes cognitive health, addresses cognitive impairment, and helps meet the needs of care partners.

Members also build a strong base of evidence for policy, communication, and programmatic interventions.

Besides the Illinois PRC, members of this network are the Prevention Research Centers at these institutions:

Learn more about this network on the CDC website.


Read The Healthy Brain Initiative’s road map (PDF).


This work is a special interest project funded as a competitive supplement grant (SIP14-002) by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the Illinois Prevention Research Center (under Cooperative Grant No. U48-DP005010), which is administered by the Institute for Health Research and Policy of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).