USAgainstAlzheimer’s is a national advocacy campaign committed to the bold goal of stopping Alzheimer’s by 2020. Although Alzheimer’s affects more than 5 million Americans and will cost the nation $2 trillion over the next 10 years, for decades there has been a lack of political will to confront the growing Alzheimer’s crisis. That is beginning to change.

Since 2011, M+R has been working with USAgainstAlzheimer’s to develop and implement an integrated campaign that blends traditional organizing tactics with media relations and social media outreach in order to mobilize advocates and make this tragic disease a national priority.

M+R’s first order of business in working with USAgainstAlzheimer’s was to raise awareness of the growing Alzheimer’s epidemic and mobilize activists throughout the country to demand change. We focused on two things: the incredible emotional toll the disease takes on Americans, and the financial toll the disease takes on our economy.

Using Facebook, we collected compelling personal stories from families, caregivers and individuals affected by Alzheimer’s—growing an active Facebook community of 21,401 fans in just 6 months (a 2,000% increase!).

We then used traditional media to promote those stories in national outlets like Parade Magazine and USA Today, as well earning the attention of editorial writers at outlets like the Wall Street Journal who had never stopped to consider the bankrupting effect the disease has on America.

We armed prominent leaders and activists in strategic states with local toolkits about Alzheimer’s so they were ready to pressure policymakers in face-to-face meetings. We also worked with these grasstops voices to craft and place editorials in influential outlets that policymakers and candidates read.

We took particular aim at the 2012 presidential candidates, mobilizing activists to attend town halls and ask questions about top candidates’ plans to address Alzheimer’s. We even asked presidential candidates to record a video explaining how they would fight Alzheimer’s if elected—and three leading candidates submitted videos! The videos from Rep. Michelle Bachmann, Speaker Newt Gingrich and Gov. John Huntsman received coverage in The National Journal, Yahoo! Politics, and, as well as social media attention for the campaign, with coverage from reporters from ABC News, FOX News, and The Daily Caller tweeting about our campaign to their 200,000+ followers.

USAgainstAlzheimer’s also joined with dozens of other leading Alzheimer’s and caregiver groups to launch “The Stop Alzheimer’s Petition” in September 2012, calling on our leaders in Washington and beyond to commit to stopping the disease. USAgainstAlzheimer’s Facebook community – which today is nearing 57,000 fans and growing strong – played an invaluable role in efforts to garner petition signatures and reach other goals. In particular, promoted posts featuring photos of real activists from USAgainstAlzheimer’s network holding up signs indicating who they signed the petition for have been incredibly impactful thus far, leading to over 3,700 signatures and over 3,000 new e-mail sign-ups with a minimal investment.

As a result of these and other efforts, USAgainstAlzheimer’s has created genuine new momentum and attention for addressing this disease. In January 2012, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced the framework for a first-ever national plan to stop Alzheimer’s, a big win due in part to the pressure created by media articles we helped secure in USA Today, The Washington Post, Reuters, Associated Press, Bloomberg News, Los Angeles Times, Fox News, and Parade Magazine. The plan notably includes a goal to stop the disease by 2025 – which is a close echo to our call for a cure by 2020. This announcement marked the first time the federal government has adopted a timeframe to stop Alzheimer’s.