Brain health diplomacy: A necessity for dementia solutions

In this blog, the co-leaders of the Brain Health Diplomacy Working Group from The Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI), write about the necessity for brain health diplomacy in advancing better brain health.

The topic of brain health is gaining traction in the dementia field, particularly since the ‘Dementia prevention, intervention, and care: 2020 report of the Lancet Commission’ focused on taking a life course approach to reducing the risk of dementia.
At ADI, we believe strongly that a collaborative approach to raising awareness is key to promoting brain health and reducing the risk of dementia. The following blog highlights on how brain health diplomacy can encourage a renewed political commitment to and investment in strategies to increase brain health and reduce the burden of dementia.

More than ever, it is clear that brain health is an issue of global importance. The COVID-19 pandemic has unearthed, amplified and created, many inequities across countries that threaten the human brain. The tremendous toll the virus has had on people living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD), as well as the risk that COVID-19 may play in the future development of ADRD, is one of the most salient issues affecting this population.

The pandemic has also highlighted several opportunities for collaboration, new approaches and substantive change. One emerging framework for change is Brain Health Diplomacy (BHD).

The development of brain health diplomacy began to take shape before the pandemic, with a December 2020 paper in ‘The Lancet Neurology’ providing the framework for how this model is necessary to advance better brain health. The intent is to directly connect brain health science with the concept of diplomacy.

The pandemic has made this concept that much more important, given the need for collaborative solutions to be developed and implemented across all borders.

Even after we reach the point where the COVID-19 pandemic fades into memory, the multitude of risks to brain health will continue to increase across the 21st century. Some of these risks are well-known, particularly at an individual level; some of the most urgent threats, however, are macro in scope and pose risks at a community, national and international level. This includes but is not limited to inequality, air pollution and other environmental risks, including the impact of climate change.

Diplomacy is a concept not readily associated with the human brain. But it is a powerful approach to bring about the necessary collaborations to improve brain health, specifically through increasing equity in policy, care and research.

These types of partnerships across borders, disciplines, sectors, and cultures are essential to reduce the burdens of dementia in the 21st century.

Further international collaboration will be vital in a post-pandemic world. As Co-leaders of the Brain Health Diplomacy Working Group under the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Neuroscience-Inspired Policy Initiative (NAEC), we are building a foundation for these types of collaborations to develop. We are honored to partner with many key collaborators around the globe including ADI, Global Brain Health Institute, the OECD, Davos Alzheimer’s Collaborative, Center for BrainHealth, Brain Health Nexus, Alzheimer’s Disease Data Initiative, Human Brain Project, EBRAINS and many more to advance this work.

Our aim is to work toward commitments and investments in brain health at a multi-national level. Drawing on the Brain Capital framework, we hope to see a ‘brain-in-all-policies’ approach to future policy development across countries. As our brain health diplomacy work grows, we will be developing further networks to continue to foster international diplomacy focused on collaborations and we look forward to sharing more opportunities to engage in this important work.

The time for global collaboration to address global threats to brain health such as Alzheimer’s disease is now.

Harris A. Eyre is co-lead of the Neuroscience-inspired Policy Initiative of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, the PRODEO Institute and the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, a member of the founding steering committee for Brain Health Nexus of Cohen Veterans Bioscience and a member of the Champions Cabinet of the Davos Alzhiemer’s Collaborative. 

Laura Booi is the co-lead of the Brain Health Diplomacy Working Group for the Neuroscience-Inspired Policy Initiative of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development. She is also a Senior Atlantic Fellow with the Global Brain Health Institute and a Research Fellow with the Centre for Dementia Research at Leeds Beckett University.

Walter Dawson is the co-lead of the Brain Health Diplomacy Working Group for the Neuroscience-Inspired Policy Initiative of the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development. He is an Assistant Professor at the Layton Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Oregon Health & Science University and a Senior Atlantic Fellow with the Global Brain Health Institute. 

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