National Center for Healthcare Advancement and Partnerships
Parkinson’s Foundation Partnership
VA partnership with the Parkinson’s Foundation is helping Veterans with the disease, wherever they are
April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month, an observance that the Parkinson’s Foundation participates in to raise awareness about Parkinson’s disease (PD) and the resources available to make life better for people diagnosed with PD.
The Parkinson’s Foundation and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) partnered in 2020 to leverage each other’s strengths to improve the health and quality of life for Veterans living with PD. This partnership will add to what VA already offers to Veterans diagnosed with PD—VA has led large PD research studies and clinical trials over the years and in 2001 established the Parkinson’s Disease Research, Education, and Clinical Centers (PADRECCs), which are designated VA Centers of Excellence at six sites in the country. VA also has 51 Consortium Centers, which are regional specialty clinics for Veterans unable to travel to a PADRECC.
PD is a disorder of the central nervous system and causes symptoms related to the movement of the muscles, such as tremors, rigidity, and poor balance, as well as numerous non-motor symptoms impacting mental health, cognition, sleep, and anxiety. VA estimates that 110,000 Veterans are living with PD.
“VA has [PADRECCs and Consortium Centers], which are clinical centers where they are experts in Parkinson’s Disease, their physicians, their care teams, the array of health professionals treating Veterans with PD have expertise in Parkinson’s Disease, so part of this partnership is to increase awareness of those kinds of clinics and that expertise,” said Sheera Rosenfeld, vice president of strategic initiatives for the Parkinson’s Foundation.
This partnership, Ms. Rosenfeld said, will drive awareness of resources such as the PADRECCs and Consortium Centers—and options such as telehealth—so Veterans and their care partners can take advantage of the benefits and services VA offers. Together, VA and the Parkinson’s Foundation will work to provide Veterans and Veteran health care providers access to PD information and resources; will educate VA staff on PD; and will improve services, coordination, and resource navigation for Veterans diagnosed with PD. VA will also educate the Parkinson’s Foundation about Veteran-specific conditions and suicide prevention.
Parkinson’s Foundation also will bring its collection of resources to the table as part of this partnership—it has a “very rich library and array of tailored education and training materials,” Ms. Rosenfeld said, including online training, in-person training, webinars, materials that VA professionals can give to their PD patients. The partners have already hosted an educational event—in March, VA and the Parkinson’s Foundation hosted an online educational program for Veterans and caregivers, with Veteran speakers who shared their PD experiences .
The Parkinson’s Foundation offers mindfulness, fitness, and wellness-driven programming online on its “PD Health @ Home” platform. This virtual community space can be especially important for people diagnosed with PD, Ms. Rosenfeld said, because PD can be “a very isolating disease.”
“We recognize that connectedness, that engagements, that activity—physical and mental activity—is still really important to people with Parkinson’s,” she explained.
On April 28, Veterans and their caregivers can attend a virtual program, “Veterans and Parkinson’s: Social Connection & Empowerment,” and hear from fellow Veterans, clinicians, and Southwest PADRECC Director Dr. Indu Subramanian. Register at Parkinson.org/SWvets.
The VHA National Center for Healthcare Advancement and Partnerships (HAP, formerly the Office of Community Engagement) facilitated the development of this partnership.
“VA already offers so much to Veterans diagnosed with PD and working with the Parkinson’s Foundation allows us to leverage their network, knowledge, and expertise to better serve Veterans” said Randy Moler, licensed clinical social worker and program analyst for HAP.
For more information on HAP’s partnerships, please visit va.gov/healthpartnerships.
Posted April 21, 2021