Brain Health Strategy of the European Academy of Neurology

Brain Health Strategy of the European Academy of Neurology

Experts from the European Academy of Neurology (EAN) warn that the incidence of diseases of the nervous system is growing dynamically. Today, neurological disorders are the leading cause of disability and the second cause of death worldwide. In Europe, neurological diseases are the third most common cause of both disability and death. Mortality and disability are primarily caused by stroke, dementia and other neurodegenerative disorders, and migraine and other headaches.

According to the World Health Organization, at least 1 in 3 people will suffer from a nervous system disorder during their lifetime, which means that neurological diseases are the most common of all non-communicable diseases. The response to the growing social burden of neurological disorders is the EAN Brain Health Stategy developed by EAN. The Polish Neurological Society, as one of the members of EAN, is actively involved in the activities outlined in the Strategy and tries to ensure that the needs of neurology are noticed by Polish decision-makers.

How to improve the health, quality of life and creativity of Europeans?

The main reason for the rapidly increasing incidence of neurological diseases is the aging population. The number of people aged 60 or older worldwide has already reached over 900 million and is projected to increase to 2 billion by 2050. The second reason for the growing incidence of neurological disorders is the unhealthy lifestyle of societies: lack of exercise, unhealthy diet, obesity, and unhygienic sleep. It is possible that environmental factors, such as pollution and climate change, are also important, but their role in the incidence of neurological disorders is still not sufficiently researched.

Neurologists diagnose and treat neurological disorders. Recent years have brought significant progress in the treatment of diseases of the nervous system such as multiple sclerosis, stroke, epilepsy, migraine, neuromuscular diseases and sleep disorders. Unfortunately, despite the dynamic development of medicine, we are still waiting for breakthroughs in therapy, including: Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, or brain tumors, because we still only partially understand the molecular mechanisms of the development of these disorders” – says prof. Ph.D. n. med. Alina Kułakowska from the Department of Neurology of the Medical University of Białystok, president-elect of the Polish Neurological Society.

As specialists from the European Academy of Neurology emphasize, not only treatment but also prevention of diseases of the nervous system are of great importance. According to new data, by applying appropriate preventive measures (primarily a healthy lifestyle), up to 40% of dementia cases and 50% of strokes can be prevented! Importantly, some risk factors, such as high blood pressure, unhealthy diet and sleep apnea, are the same for both dementia and stroke. Therefore, the prevention of dementia and strokes includes, among others: on the elimination of these factors.

What is brain health?

As defined by the World Health Organization, brain health is not just the absence of disease. It is a state in which you can carry out individual tasks and use all cognitive, emotional and psychological functions to cope with life situations. Brain health is essential to a person's overall health, well-being, productivity and creativity throughout life. According to the European Academy of Neurology, brain health should be approached in a holistic way, because only such an approach will reduce the social burden and reduce the costs associated with health care for patients with diseases of the nervous system, but will also improve the quality of life, creativity and productivity of Europeans. That's why the Health Strategy

The European Academy of Neurology focuses not only on preventing neurological disorders, but also on maintaining broadly understood brain health and promoting recovery after various injuries to this organ. It therefore includes the promotion of brain health, prevention, diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation and patient care, as well as reducing social stigmatization of people affected by neurological disorders.

Challenges Brain Health Strategy

The European Academy of Neurology's Brain Health Strategy identifies several key challenges facing scientists, doctors and policymakers:

  1. A better understanding of the determinants of brain health, which will translate into more effective prevention of neurological disorders, more efficient diagnosis and more effective treatment.

  2. Ensuring an adequate number of health care workers in the field of neurology. The current number of neurologists is clearly insufficient. The World Federation of Neurology has estimated that only 25% of the world has access to more than two neurologists per 100,000 people. A study conducted by the European Academy of Neurology reported 85,000 neurologists for Europe's 900 million inhabitants. This means an average of 10,000 patients per neurologist.

  3. Increase funding, at EU and national levels, for research into the mechanisms, treatment and prevention of neurological disorders.

  4. Taking a holistic, biopsychosocial perspective on brain health.

  5. Increasing public awareness and understanding of the high burden of neurological diseases.

Pillars of the Brain Health Strategy

To achieve the goals set out in the EAN Brain Health Strategy, the following actions must be taken:

  1. Building a global, international alliance for brain health (together with the 47 European national neurological societies of EAN, other medical societies, the World Health Organization, the World Federation of Neurology, patient organizations, industry representatives and other stakeholders).

  2. Supporting international and national policymaking for brain health.

  3. Supporting cutting-edge brain health research.

Promoting modern education for medical students, neurologists, doctors of other specialties, other health care workers (including nurses, psychologists, speech therapists and physiotherapists), patients and their caregivers, as well as the general public.

Raising public awareness and understanding of neurological diseases and brain health – including: through press and media campaigns, conducted in cooperation with partner associations, international organizations and health authorities.

The Polish Neurological Society, as one of the 47 members of the European Academy of Neurology, makes every effort to ensure that these activities are also carried out in Poland and the needs of neurology are noticed by Polish decision-makers. For this purpose, PTN has prepared a national strategy for neurology and is actively striving to establish neurology as a strategic field in the state's health policy.” – underlines prof. Ph.D. n. med. Alina Kułakowska.

Polish Presidency of the EU Council in 2025

Consistent with these directions of actions for brain health are the health priorities of the Polish Presidency in 2025, in particular promoting health prevention and building a public health system based on scientific evidence.

Epidemiological threats of brain diseases, related mainly to demographic changes, but also to lifestyle and civilization diseases, require urgent and intensive educational and preventive actions. The Presidency is a good opportunity to disseminate knowledge about the problems generated by neurological diseases and the possibilities of avoiding their personal, social and economic costs. Representatives of the PTN, the National Council for Neurology and the entire neurology community agree on this” – he sums up prof. Ph.D. n. med. Halina Sienkiewicz-Jaroszchairwoman of the National Council for Neurology.

Source: The European Academy of Neurology Brain Health Strategy: One brain, one life, one approach. European Journal of Neurology 2022, 29(9): 2559-2566.

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