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WHO publishes first position paper on optimising brain health

It is estimated that one in three people will develop a neurological disorder at some point in their life, making neurological disorders the leading cause of disability


The World Health Organization (WHO) has published its first position paper on optimising brain health, aiming to raise awareness of the ‘pressing need’ to establish brain health as a global priority.

Developed by WHO’s Brain Health Unit, the paper presents a framework for understanding brain health and how it can be optimised throughout life across different clusters of determinants known to affect brain health. These include factors like physical health, healthy environments, safety and security, learning and social connections and access to quality services.

WHO states that addressing these determinants will result in multiple benefits, not only by reducing the prevalence and burden of neurological disorders, but also improving overall mental and physical health and creating positive social and economic impacts.

“If the factors that have a dire impact on brain health are left unaddressed, we shall fail both to promote everyone’s full potential and to reduce the burden of neurological conditions, thereby impeding not only health but also social and economic development globally,” said WHO’s Dr Ren Minghui, assistant director general universal health coverage/communicable and noncommunicable diseases, in the forward to the position paper.

A multitude of factors can affect brain health from as early as pre-conception. “These factors can pose great threats to the brain, leading to immense missed developmental potential, global disease burden and disability,” cautioned Minghui.

For example, in 2017, 43% of children under the age of five in low- and middle-income countries – nearly 250 million children – were at risk of not reaching their developmental potential due to extreme poverty and stunting.

The paper also emphasised the morbidity and mortality caused by neurological disorders worldwide as neurological disorders led by stroke, migraines, dementia and meningitis are currently the number one cause of disability globally, with an estimated one in three people developing neurological disorders at some point in their life, WHO reported.

It is concluded that efforts to optimise brain health require multi-stakeholder collaboration and must be integrated across all sectors of society in order to address the determinants of
brain health.

WHO also outlines that optimising brain health is ‘central to achieving global commitments outlined in the Intersectoral global action plan on epilepsy and other neurological disorders 2022–2031, WHO’s Triple Billion targets, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and the 2021 Geneva Charter for wellbeing.

Article by
Emily Kimber

17th August 2022

From: Healthcare



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