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WHO Prioritizes the Role of Brain Health Throughout Life Span

August 10, 2022 by Alexa Hornbeck

The World Health Organization is exploring ways to quantify the burden associated with brain diseases. In a position paper published Aug. 9, the organization shows how brain health can be optimized throughout life to reduce the prevalence and burden of neurological disorders. 

According to the WHO, there are many long-term consequences of missed developmental potential. For example, 43% of children under 5 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 cost of inaction for these children can result in a 26% reduction in annual earnings in adulthood. 

The paper also identifies how pollution is impacting brain health, as 99% of people worldwide breathe polluted air. This can create developmental issues that span a lifetime.

The WHO adopted the Intersectoral Global Action Plan on Epilepsy and Other Neurological Disorders in 2022, a plan that sets goals for multi-stakeholder collaborations to prioritize brain health.

The paper finds there is limited policy response to address brain health comprehensively, and there are inadequate services to promote and optimize brain health for people with disabilities. Such barriers include limited health workers with neurologic-specific training in lower resource settings, and social and financial protections. 

Paired with advances in neuroscience and neuroimaging, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and data science, the WHO is also seeking to drive more research of the human brain.

Alexa can be reached at alexa@thewellnews.com

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