Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Raj Mukherji, Annette Quijano Nancy Pinkin and Carmelo G. Garcia that would create a public awareness and education program about Parkinson’s disease has been signed into law.
“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 law (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 program will entail 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 the availability of Parkinson’s disease diagnostic and treatment services in the community.
“As is the case with all matters of health, knowledge is power here,” said Garcia (D-Hudson). “This law will help ensure that New Jersey residents understand the signs of Parkinson’s disease and how it can be treated.”
The law also calls for the 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 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 patients.
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.
As many as one million Americans live with Parkinson’s disease, which is more than the number of people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and Lou Gehrig’s disease combined, according to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation. About 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease each year, and an estimated seven to 10 million people worldwide live with the disease. Men are one and a half times more likely to have Parkinson’s than women.
The measure received unanimous approval in both houses of the legislature.