Allick appointed to the Washington State Dementia Action Collaborative

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Cole Allick, research assistant professor in Washington State University’s Institute for Research and Education to Advance Community Health (IREACH), has been appointed to the Washington State Dementia Action Collaborative.

With this appointment, Allick, who is also faculty in the Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, will work to help ensure that the unique dementia care needs of Native communities are integrated into the Washington State Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias. His contributions will include sharing resources such as free legal planning and cataloging available datasets for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias to improve community planning.

“Elders are the backbones of our communities and stewards of our stories, languages, and traditions,” said Allick, who is a citizen of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. “As a community-driven and systems-focused scholar, I see the rise in the population of elders as indicative of great progress but requires us to home in on data-oriented solutions and awareness to ensure that they are cared for in authentic ways that improve our long-term support systems.”

A portrait of Cole Allick in Native regalia
Cole Allick

According to the collaborative, around 125,000 people in Washington state are living with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Over the next two decades, that number could double among people 65 and older.

Concurrently, the number of American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) people aged 65 and older will more than double by 2060, according to Census Bureau projections. The number of AI/AN people aged 85 and older are expected to more than quadruple, raising concerns about how an already overburdened healthcare system can support their dementia care needs.

Native people have a higher than normal likelihood of developing known risk factors for Alzheimer’s and dementia, but not much else is known about the diseases among these populations. In seeking to address this knowledge gap, Allick’s IREACH colleagues have identified some insights that highlight the need for novel research in partnership with this unique population. For instance, the presence of a certain biomarker, the apolipoprotein E (APOE) ε4 allele, is related to a higher risk of neurodegeneration in some populations but is not shown to be a risk factor for some Native groups. Also, Native people who live in counties with greater concentrations of AI/ANs were shown to have lower mortality from Alzheimer’s and dementia.

The Dementia Action Collaborative is a group of public-private partners committed to preparing Washington state for the increasing number of people living with dementia. Established in 2016, it is overseen by the Aging and Long-Term Support Administration of the Department of Social and Health Services.

Allick was introduced to dementia research by his IREACH colleagues, including the late Ka’imi Sinclair, who took him under her wing with the Natives Engaged in Alzheimer’s Research program in 2021. That project built on the work at IREACH of colleagues including Sinclair who also created community-focused “Brain Health Events” that Allick now leads to engage Indigenous communities in research and brain health.

“I am privileged to have built meaningful relationships with other collaborative members that have allowed me to foster community readiness and awareness while honoring Ka’imi’s joyful, collaborative spirit,” Allick said.

Allick completed his doctoral degree from the Department of Indigenous Health at University of North Dakota, where he also teaches Indigenous health policy and Indigenous research methods as an adjunct faculty member. His work elevates Indigenous research methods, with the goal of incorporating these principles into Western systems of education for the benefit of Indigenous communities and those who serve them. “To serve in this capacity is to honor the mentors and elders in my life, including my grandparents who continue to ground me in this work and allow me to make sure Native people are in these important conversations within our state,” Allick said.

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