Four former U.S. surgeons general are advocating for regular annual cognitive assessments as part of routine check-ups, calling dementia the No. 1 public health crisis.

“While not for diagnosing dementia specifically, these check-ups would go a long way in the service of establishing a cognitive baseline for millions of patients at all ages,” Antonio Novella, M.D., MPH, DrPH; Joceyln Elders, M.D., M.S.; David Satcher, M.D., Ph.D.; and Richard Carmona, M.D., MPH, wrote Thursday in a guest commentary in the Orlando Sentinel. Such brain health check-ups have been suggested by the Brain Health Partnership and UsAgainstAlzheimer’s, they noted.

The commentary coincided with their joint appearance Friday morning at the International Council on Active Aging Conference, Leadership Summit and Expo 2019 in Orlando, where the four delivered a keynote address, “Shaping the Future of Aging.”

Last month, Parade magazine reported that the former surgeons general would be demanding “a coordinated national infrastructure to help family caregivers at the conference.”

“Their thinking: If just one surgeon general, C. Everett Koop, could raise AIDS awareness in the 1980s, imagine what four surgeons general, all north of age 60 and with 200 years of collective experience, could do for caregiving,” Parade said. Satcher was a caregiver for his late wife, Nola, who had Alzheimer’s disease, according to the article.

Novella was surgeon general from 1990 to 1993 under President George H.W. Bush. Elders served from 1993 to 1994 under President Bill Clinton. Satcher was surgeon general from 1998 to 2002 under Clinton, and Carmona served under President George W. Bush.

From left: Surgeons General Novella, Elders, Satcher and Carmona.