Daniel George and Peter Whitehouse Discuss Their Just-Published Book, "American Dementia, Brain Health in an Unhealthy Society" (September 14th)
Ken Langa's dust jacket summary appropriately states, the authors, "make clear that, in order to understand health and cognitive decline more fully, we must consider the quality and inclusiveness of the environment through which we travel from birth to death." Alzheimer's or brain health should not be simply conceived or understood, the authors' argue, at a biological level but also the result of material conditions of life mediated by political-economic organizations that dictate public policy - and these from a brain health perspective are what's demented. The work should remind listeners of my May discussion with CUNY Professor Nick Freudenberg regarding his work, At What Cost, Modern Capitalism and the Future of Health. Dedicated listeners may recall I interviewed the Alzheimer's Association's Robert Egge in April of 2015.)
This 33 minute conversation begins with the authors explaining the problems associated with the paradigm used to define or understand Alzheimer's, i.e., the so-called amyloid cascade hypothesis - made evident by the recent, and very controversial, FDA approval of Biogen's drug, aducanumab (brand name Aduhelm). The authors go on to discuss/define an alternative definition or paradigm to define Alzheimer's and brain health, one that recognizes or appreciates or accounts for the material conditions of life shaped/determined by socio-economic policies and how these have changed over the past 50 years via the advent of neoliberal policies (deregulation, etc.) compared to just previous post-WWII policies that included comparatively more progressive taxation, education, environmental and public health policies. Among other comments the authors weigh in on the adequacy of healthcare industry efforts to address or counter-act the adverse brain health effects of neoliberal policy.
Prof. Daniel R. George, PhD, MSc, is a medical anthropologist and associate professor in the Department of Humanities and Public Health Sciences at Penn State College of Medicine. His research on intergenerational issues in dementia care has been recognized by the global advocacy group Alzheimer’s Disease International. In addition to teaching and research at Penn State, Dr. George has co-founded the Farmers Market in Hershey, PA and a Community Garden on the hospital campus.
Prof. Peter J. Whitehouse, MD, PhD, has a primary appointment as Professor of Neurology, with secondary positions as Professor of Psychiatry, Cognitive Science, Neuroscience, and Organizational Behavior at Case Western Reserve University. He is also Professor of Medicine at the University of Toronto. Dr. Whitehouse founded, with his wife, Intergenerational Schools, unique public, multiage community schools in Cleveland. He has served in national and international leadership positions in neurology, geriatrics, and public health.
For more information on the book and the authors' related work go to: https://sites.psu.edu/americandementia/.
Noted during this interview is the authors' August 25th Scientific American article titled, "Alzheimer's Inc.: When a Hypothesis Becomes Too Big to Fail." At: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/alzheimers-inc-when-a-hypothesis-becomes-too-big-to-fail/.
Drs. Whitehouse and George are the coauthors of The Myth of Alzheimer's (St. Martin’s Press, 2008).