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The Vital Roles of the Neurologist and Advocacy

How neurologists and advocacy are vital to brain health around the world for patients, research, policy and access to care

Brain diseases and disorders make up 10 percent of the total global burden of disease (AAAS ⧉), a share that is growing. As the global population continues to increase due to extended lifespan, the economic impact of brain disease is expected to worsen. But what many don’t know is that brain health awareness can lead to disease prevention. It all starts with increased awareness across the world.

Brain health advocacy is the intrinsic and altruistic action of those committed to both preventing brain disease and improving the outcomes of those living with brain diseases by working to implement important and beneficial changes in health systems. The neurologist serves as the principal resource in neurology, incorporating all aspects of care, research and education in the field.

The range of neurological disorders and the number of persons affected by them are vast. In addition to prevention and access to care, neurologists provide people with knowledge and resources, which are key tools for self-advocacy.

In order to reduce the global burden of, and to help those affected by brain disease, we must all advocate for the importance of brain health. Everyone from neurologists to patients and their caregivers to advocacy organisations can advocate for brain health and thereby contribute to improving it.

Neurologists Advocate for Brain Health

When it comes to brain health, the role of the neurologist is more than to prevent, diagnose and treat. Neurologists contribute to the essential narrative for brain health by sharing important information about disease prevention and lobbying for more equitable access to care. Incorporating “brain health” into the common vernacular can facilitate the same progress seen in other disease areas. Heart disease or cancer prevention are excellent and advanced examples of disorders now embedded in public consciousness.

Preventative care does make an impact, so when neurologists emphasise the importance of lifelong brain health that empowers patients and caregivers to advocate for themselves. Neurologists speak out about brain health on behalf of their patients and caregivers both in medical settings and in healthcare policy. As experts in the field, neurologists ease the global burden of brain disease through information and education.

Patients, Caregivers are Key in Leading Global Advocacy

The patients and caregivers who face neurological disorders are also those who stand to gain the most from the efforts of advocates. From fighting for better access to care and more resources to sharing their experience and information with policymakers, their first-hand stories inspire action. When patients and caregivers team up with neurologists, real change can be achieved. The global connectedness of the world through social networking allows for increasingly effective advocacy. Patients and caregivers have the opportunity to join umbrella groups, form multi-organization coalitions dedicated to brain health and work with policymakers to influence and implement change. It comes down to education, sharing accurate, evidence-based information and providing opportunities to educate the public about brain health.

The Importance of Worldwide Advocacy Organizations

Organizations vital to the pursuit of awareness surrounding brain health include the World Health Organization (WHO), World Federation of Neurology (WFN), American Academy of Neurology, European Academy of Neurology and many patient-led organizations at national and international levels.

The WHO has made huge strides in bringing the true burden of neurological disorders into public awareness through the Global Burden of Disease studies supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Lancet Neurology publication and through initiatives such as the development of the Intersectoral Global Action Plan on Epilepsy and Other Neurological Disorders as well as other programs. Their brain health work ⧉ focuses on promoting optimal brain development, cognitive health and well-being throughout life.

WFN fosters quality neurology and brain health worldwide by promoting global neurological education and training, especially in under-resourced areas of the world. The WFN represents 122 professional member societies and six regional organizations all around the world. It is also the lead for the Global Neurology Alliance, a coalition representing every neurological disorder. The WFN has established programs including the Brain Health Initiative, World Brain Day and the World Congress of Neurology to further education and knowledge of brain health and to advance neurological science.

When local, national and global leaders align to address the burden and economic impact of neurological diseases, it is possible to change the trajectory of brain disease for the good. Interventions such as awareness, education and making services accessible to all on a global, regional and national scale are vital to winning the fight against the burden of brain disease. The World Federation of Neurology’s Brain Health Initiative was built to change the global mindset regarding neurology and public health. Stay informed about brain health and access resources for advocacy here.

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