(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly members Raj Mukherji, Annette Quijano and Nancy Pinkin that would create a public awareness and education program about Parkinson’s disease was approved by the full Assembly on Monday.
According to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, as many as one million Americans live with Parkinson’s disease, which is more than the combined number of people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and Lou Gehrig’s disease. Approximately 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease each year, and this number does not reflect the thousands of cases that go undetected. An estimated seven to 10 million people worldwide are living with Parkinson’s disease. Incidence of Parkinson’s increases with age, but an estimated four percent of people with PD are diagnosed before the age of 50. Men are one and a half times more likely to have Parkinson’s than women.
“An estimated 1.5 million Americans have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “This is a disease that affects too many New Jersey families. The more we know about Parkinson’s, the more we can help residents identify symptoms and find the resources they need to help themselves and their loved ones.”
Designated the “Parkinson’s Disease Public Awareness and Education Act,” the bill (A-2576) establishes a Parkinson’s disease public awareness and education program in the Department of Health (DOH).
“Parkinson’s disease is a life-changing illness whose symptoms are not always easily identifiable,” said Quijano (D-Bergen, Union). “With over 50,000 Americans diagnosed each year, it is important that we focus on educating residents and fostering a greater awareness of the disease.”
“Parkinson’s disease education is vitally important as more and more New Jerseyans are diagnosed,” said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). “By informing residents of the signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s, we can encourage early detection and help those with the disease and their families continue to live their best lives.”
The bill provides that the program includes the development of a public education and outreach campaign to promote Parkinson’s disease awareness and education, including, but not limited to: the cause and nature of the disease; diagnostic procedures and appropriate indications for their use; lifestyle issues relating to how a person copes with Parkinson’s disease; environmental safety and injury prevention; and availability of Parkinson’s disease diagnostic and treatment services in the community.
The program would also include development of educational materials to be made available to consumers through local boards of health, physicians, hospitals, and clinics; professional education programs for health care providers to assist them in understanding research findings and the subjects set forth in the bill; and educational programs for other personnel, including judicial staff, police officers, fire fighters, and social services and emergency medical service providers, to assist them in recognizing the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and understanding how to respond to the needs of persons with the disease in the course of performing their duties, including dissemination of the informational materials prepared pursuant to the bill.
In addition, the program will develop and maintain a list of current providers of specialized services for the diagnosis and treatment of Parkinson’s disease. Dissemination of the list is to be accompanied by a description of diagnostic procedures, appropriate indications for their use, and a cautionary statement about the current status of Parkinson’s disease research and treatment. The statement would also indicate that DOH does not endorse specific Parkinson’s disease programs or centers in this State.
April is also designated as Parkinson Disease Awareness Month in New Jersey.
The measure was approved 80-0. The bill was approved by the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee in May.