The World Health Organisation (WHO) has identified neurological disorders as the leading cause of disability and the second leading cause of death across the globe. It also estimated that 1 in 3 people will develop a neurological disorder at some point in their life.
WHO gave this hint on Tuesday 9 August, 2022 during the launch of its new position paper on brain health, which presents a framework for understanding brain health and the importance of brain health optimisation for all.
Brain health can be defined as the state of brain functioning across cognitive, sensory, social-emotional, behavioral and motor domains, allowing a person to realize their full potential over their life course, irrespective of the presence or absence of disorders.
According to the apex health institution, 43 per cent of children under the age of five in low- and middle-income countries are believed to miss their developmental potential due to extreme poverty and growth stunting, leading to financial losses and projected 26 per cent, lower annual earnings in adulthood.
It stated that optimising brain health not only reduces the prevalence and burden of neurological disorders, but also improve mental and physical health overall and create positive social and economic impacts, all of which contribute to greater well-being and help advance society, irrespective of the presence or absence of disorders.
The WHO’s statement on optimising brain health across the life course is a technical complement to the recently-adopted intersectoral global action plan on epilepsy and other neurological disorders 2022–2031.
It emphasises that there are many determinants responsible for impacting brain health and continuous interactions between these determinants plus an individual’s context lead to lifelong adaptation of brain structure and functioning.
These clusters of determinants are: physical health, healthy environments, safety and security, learning and social connection, and access to quality services.
The new position paper further demonstrates the relevance of optimizing brain health within the broader context of public health and society and offers practical policy solutions and future directions for the field including specific actions for addressing brain health determinants, ongoing priorities in brain health research, and operationalizing and measuring brain health.
Brain health is an evolving concept, attracting increasing attention not only from the health sector but also from wider society, stimulating rich debate.
The brain and central nervous system are the command centre of the human body, controlling both conscious and unconscious body functions and thereby influencing every aspect of life.
If our brains are challenged by disease or other factors, this poses significant risks not only to an individual’s overall health and well-being, but also to global development and productivity.