African American Recruitment for University of Washington Alzheimer's Disease Research Center; minority recruitment for Alzheimer's studies

While it is clear that Alzheimer’s disease can affect people of all races or ethnicities, certain groups, such as African Americans, may be at a greater risk of developing dementia. Despite this, the vast majority of Alzheimer’s disease research participants are of Caucasian descent. This fact means that non-Caucasian groups are significantly underrepresented in research studies and that the results of those studies may not be applicable to non-Caucasian individuals. For these reasons, it is essential that future research studies include a diversity of research participants from all races and ethnic groups in order to fully understand all people affected by Alzheimer’s disease. At the UW ADRC, we actively welcome everyone to participate in our research program, and we have chosen to specifically focus our outreach and recruitment efforts on the African American community in the Pacific Northwest.

We know that Alzheimer’s affects the African American community uniquely—from its causes to the effects that it has on families and caregivers. The extent of our understanding of Alzheimer’s in the African American community is dependent upon the participation of African American research volunteers. The UW ADRC’s goals are to provide Alzheimer’s education to the African American community, to improve access to culturally competent care for patients and caregivers through partnerships with community resources (such as the Alzheimer’s Association), and to increase research participation by African Americans in the community. We hope that our efforts will create a greater understanding of Alzheimer’s in the African American community and lead to critical advances in culturally specific Alzheimer’s care.

African-American-Men.jpgUW ADRC African American Advisory Board

The outreach of the ADRC in the African American community is being led by the ADRC African American Advisory Board. The board is comprised of African American community leaders and advocates, health professionals, social workers, ministry leaders, and caregivers. Their generous input directly informs the ADRC’s outreach efforts, from our recruitment materials to the community groups with whom we partner. The goal of the board is to recognize the concerns of African Americans, to offer sincere answers, and to give key direction to the ADRC in providing culturally sensitive care, assistance to resources, and research opportunities.

African Americans and Alzheimer's Disease Facts:

  • Close relatives of African Americans with Alzheimer's disease have a higher risk of dementia than close relatives of Caucasian Americans with AD. Thus, there is a greater family risk for dementia for African Americans than Caucasian Americans.1
  • Findings from different studies vary, but the available research indicates that in the United States, older African Americans are approximately two times more likely than older Caucasian Americans to have Alzheimer's and other dementias.2
  • The presence of the APOE-4 allele is a genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's in non-Hispanic Caucasian Americans, but African Americans and Hispanic Americans have an increased frequency of Alzheimer's regardless of their APOE genotype. These results suggest that other genes or risk factors may contribute to the increased risk of Alzheimer's in African Americans and Hispanic Americans.3
  • Compared to the general public, African Americans have a higher risk of diabetes, higher blood pressure, and higher rates of cholesterol and other cardiovascular complications, all of which could lead to a higher risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.4


Resource & Outreach Materials:

Online Resources:

Relevant Reports:



1Green, Cupples et al. Risk of Dementia Among White and African American Relatives of
Patients With Alzheimer Disease. JAMA 287:329-336, 2002.

2Alzheimer's Association Special Report: Race, Ethnicity and Alzheimer's Disease., 2010.

3 Tang,Stern, et al. The APOE-?4 Allele and the Risk of Alzheimer Disease Among African Americans, Whites, and Hispanics. JAMA 279(10):751-755, 1998.

4Stroke risk factors may signal faster cognitive decline in elderly. American Heart Association, 2008.