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Milbank Q. 1989;67(1):58-102.

From senility to Alzheimer's disease: the rise of the Alzheimer's disease movement.

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  • 1University of California, San Francisco.


Alzheimer's disease, once a rarely applied medical diagnosis, is now considered to be the fourth or fifth leading cause of death in the United States. Several interrelated factors account for the disease's ascendancy as the preferred category to characterize specific types of neuropsychiatric problems associated with aging. These include a shift in the disease's conceptualization, the emergence of an institutional structure facilitating increased awareness of the disease, and the growth of a constituency advocating greater spending for and expansion of research on the disorder. A biological phenomenon was transformed into a social issue when persons took concerted action to promote Alzheimer's disease as a major social and health problem affecting the elderly.

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