Help Keep Brain Health Top of Mind
The brain is the body’s most critical organ. If it does not work properly, every aspect of life is compromised as a result. Unfortunately, the brain is also the least understood organ. Ninety percent of what we have learned about its function has been in the past 15 years, but researchers still have a long way to go.
What we do know is that 5.5 million Canadians have been diagnosed with a chronic brain condition, and within the next 20 years, brain conditions will become the leading cause of death and disability in Canada. We also know that policy-makers and health care professionals are not currently equipped to respond to this shift within Canada’s population.
In 2008, recognizing the need for a coordinated and cohesive approach to brain health, 26 neurological organizations joined together to form Neurological Health Charities Canada (NHCC). NHCC’s goal is to elevate brain health to the top of government agendas—ensuring that research, prevention, treatment and support for those living with chronic brain conditions are universally accessible and fully funded.
NHCC Puts Brain Health on the Public Policy Agenda
NHCC began its quest to elevate brain health as a key policy issue by asking the Canadian government to take a leadership role by:
- Creating a health care system that provides integrated care and support for individuals with chronic, disabling conditions as well as those with acute illnesses
- Providing research dollars for targeted investment in neuroscience to help identify preventive measures and ultimately cures for neurological conditions
- Providing meaningful support for caregivers in the form of a comprehensive package of education, respite, income support and mandated workplace accommodation
- Establishing income security measures for individuals and families living with neurological conditions
- Establishing measures to prevent genetic discrimination
- Creating public awareness and providing education to build a better understanding of the brain and neurological conditions among the Canadian public and front-line health professionals
Small Movements Lead to Big Steps: Population Health Study on Neurological Conditions: The government responded with great speed. In 2009, the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health, announced the government’s commitment to a four-year, $15-million National Population Health Study on Neurological Conditions (NPHSNC) to begin addressing the gaps in knowledge about the prevalence of these conditions in Canada.
NPHSNC is the first study of its kind in Canada. Managed by both NHCC and the Public Health Agency of Canada, it is expected to provide information about the impact of current and projected neurological diseases over the next 20 years. It consists of three national surveys, 13 pan-Canadian research studies, a simulation that provides future projections, and will conclude with a formal report of recommendations to the Health Minister.
The Study is Just the Beginning: “We have very little information on the prevalence and impact of brain conditions in this country,” says Joyce Gordon, Chair of NHCC and CEO of Parkinson Society Canada. “The results of this study will be crucial for developing a future policy that ensures maximum impact for those who live with brain conditions at a minimum cost to Canada’s health care system.”
With 127 Canadian researchers at more than 30 institutions across the country, the study will ensure that systematic approaches are used to define brain conditions, help decision-makers identify the resources required to meet the needs of this expanding population, illuminate the economic impact of neurological conditions on the health care system, and provide much-needed data related to Canadian incidence, prevalence, risk and health service utilization. The results of this study will lay the foundation for developing an evidence-based policy to address the needs of the growing number of Canadians living with a neurological condition.
Want to Make Brain Health a Policy Priority? To learn more about NHCC or the NPHSNC, like us on Facebook (My Brain Matters), follow us on Twitter @MyBrain Matters or become a member of our community and register at mybrainmatters.ca.