Putting brain health at the top of Europe's health agenda

Brain health must take centre stage in the EU’s renewed focus on health policy, writes Monica Di Luca.
Source: European Brain Council

By Monica Di Luca

Professor Monica Di Luca is President of the European Brain Council.

27 Apr 2021

A European brain health strategy is critical to fostering innovation and to improving the lives of those affected by brain disorders, encompassing both neurological and mental disorders alike. Brain disorders are widespread and highly disabling conditions that are often difficult to treat.

The case for prioritising brain disorders at a global and European policy level is evident. Their high burden and socio-economic impact demand an appropriate response by policymakers in the same way as for other highly impacting disease areas like cancer.

The cost of brain disorders in Europe amounts to almost €800bn annually – more than all other major non-communicable diseases combined. Brain disorders also constitute a critical part of Europe’s post-COVID-19 recovery planning, given the significant disruption of care and impact on patients.

“We call on the EU institutions to urgently put forward an integrated approach to brain health, one that maximises impact and improves outcome"

Neurological dysfunction is the second most common cause of comorbidity in patients with COVID-19, and dementia and other chronic neurological disorders are associated with an increased risk of mortality. Innovation should be embedded throughout, from research to care and improving patients’ quality of life. A research and innovation agenda that ensures coordination and collaboration at European and global level is a critical objective that cannot be overstated.

Brain disorders could also provide a best practice case study for the digital transformation of healthcare thanks to the significant potential that new digital technologies in this field can bring: from facilitating diagnosis through innovative technologies to the management of chronic diseases, exchanges of data and remote support for patients through telemedicine, to drug discovery and post-marketing studies.

The proposed European Health Data Space can accelerate and improve brain research and data sharing across borders and throughout the union. In order to ensure access and better outcomes for brain disorders, the regulatory environment needs to be kept fit for purpose.

“The cost of brain disorders in Europe amounts to almost €800bn annually – more than all other major non-communicable diseases combined”

As the new EU Pharmaceutical Strategy takes shape, appropriate incentives, commitments, and accountability of the industry must be balanced in support of brain health. The Strategy must also have a patient-centric agenda, including greater patient involvement in clinical development and outcomes research.

We, the European Brain Council, call on the EU institutions to urgently put forward an integrated approach to brain health, one that maximises impact and improves outcomes through coordinated action. Continued multi-stakeholder engagement in the brain health ecosystem, under EU leadership, will bring greater dialogue, further exchanges of knowledge, more showcases of successful, ongoing projects, and accelerate investment in brain disorders for the benefit of patients and us all.

Read the most recent articles written by Monica Di Luca - Brain disorders could quickly turn into a ticking time bomb

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