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New Emory program will empower patients with mild cognitive impairment

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Jennifer Johnson McEwen
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Emory Health Connection

Located on Emory's Executive Park campus, the MCI Empowerment Program will feature innovative designs in collaboration with Georgia Tech's SimTigrate Design Lab. Flexible spaces will accommodate a wide range of novel and evidence-based cognitive, physical, recreational, and occupational therapies as well as serve as a social hub for patients and families.

ATLANTA – A new paradigm-shifting program at the Emory Brain Health Center aims to tackle early declines in memory, a condition that affects up to 20 percent of Americans over age 65 -- an age group that is expected to double to 88.5 million by the year 2050. 

The Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) Empowerment Program is made possible by $23.7 million in grants from the James M. Cox Foundation and Cox Enterprises. The program will combine research, clinical care, patient and caregiver support while empowering patients to take an active role in their health and wellness. 

Often a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease, MCI is a distinct, early decline in memory and the ability to think. In partnership with Georgia Institute of Technology’s Institute for People and Technology and the SimTigrate Design Lab in the College of Design, the MCI Empowerment Program intends to improve the everyday lives of patients and their families, and to develop more effective, evidence-based therapies. 

The program will include a therapeutic day program for participants and caregivers, new technologies and innovations, research outcomes based on real-world function and an environment that empowers individuals and their families to take control over their health. 

“This is a heartbreaking disease. We’re excited about the work Allan Levey and his team are doing and hope our gift helps improve the lives of those affected and their families,” says Jim Kennedy, Chairman, Cox Enterprises.

“We are inspired by, and grateful for, the visionary philanthropy of the Cox Foundation and Cox Enterprises,” says Emory University President Claire E. Sterk. “Their continued partnership with our game-changing team at the Emory Brain Health Center means a brighter future for patients and families in Georgia and well beyond.”

“These generous gifts, in collaboration with partners such as Georgia Tech, will allow Emory to continue its quest to pioneer new technologies, engage in collaborative research and transform traditional approaches to the diagnosis, care and treatment of MCI,” says Jonathan S. Lewin, MD, CEO of Emory Healthcare. 

“The Cox gifts are allowing us to greatly accelerate our efforts to improve the lives of our patients and their families. The MCI Empowerment Program presents an unprecedented opportunity for us to fill a gap in research and care while developing innovations that can be used worldwide,” says Allan Levey, MD, PhD, director of the Goizueta Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. Levey holds The Goizueta Foundation Endowed Chair for Alzheimer’s Disease, the Betty Gage Holland Chair, and chair of the Department of Neurology in Emory University School of Medicine.

According to Levey, lifestyle and behavioral research will be a major focus of the MCI Empowerment Program. Learning more about patterns of exercise, diet, sleep, socialization and other activities has tremendous potential to impact the disease and the quality of life of affected individuals and their families.

“Georgia Tech is helping to improve brain health through cutting-edge design, science and engineering, including innovative designed environments, novel mobile and home computing technologies, and breakthrough data analytics,” says Georgia Tech President G. P. “Bud” Peterson.  We are especially excited about this opportunity to work with the world-class Emory Brain Health Center to help improve the lives of people with mild cognitive impairment.”

This partnership brings together great expertise and resources such as Georgia Tech’s “Aware Home” as well as other collaborators, including Oregon Health and Science University,  to "innovate new technical approaches to increase our understanding of the daily experience of MCI and to invent new ways of supporting the independence of people with MCI and quality of everyday activities for them and their families,” says Elizabeth Mynatt, PhD, executive director of Georgia Tech’s Institute for People and Technology.

The MCI Empowerment Program will be offered during patient evaluations at the Emory Brain Health Center’s Cognitive Disorders Clinic, part of Emory’s Goizueta Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.  

About The James M. Cox Foundation 
The James M. Cox Foundation is named in honor of Cox Enterprises' founder and provides funding for capital campaigns and special projects in communities where the company operates. James M. Cox was Ohio's first three-term governor and the 1920 Democratic nominee for president of the United States. The Foundation concentrates its community support in several areas including: conservation and environment; early childhood education; empowering families and individuals for success; and health.  

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