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World Brain Day: Brain Health and Disability

This year, World Brain Day brings awareness to the topic of brain health and disability in order to improve access and reduce gaps in equity.

World Brain Day (WBD) was established by the World Federation of Neurology in 2014 with the goal of increasing public awareness and promoting advocacy around an important topic in neurologic health each year. This year, World Brain Day is on Saturday, July 22, and will focus on brain health and disability.

On World Brain Day, people across the world are encouraged to come together and promote awareness of important topics in brain health. By shining a light on brain health, WBD encourages people to take action on an individual, community, and global level. This push for more education and awareness also emphasizes the importance of funding research to uncover connections between brain diseases and deepen our understanding of diagnosis and treatment.

Brain Disease and Disability

This year’s theme of brain health and disability brings attention to the many people with neurologic disabilities around the world and aims to inspire a global initiative to close the gaps in disability education and awareness.

People with disabilities due to brain diseases and disorders often face barriers to accessing the health care they need. To break down these barriers, World Brain Day is focused on five key aims: prevention, awareness, access, education, and advocacy. Through action in these five areas, we will take steps to reduce disability associated with brain diseases, achieve universal access to care and treatment, and increase equity.

Disparities in Neurologic Care

According to the World Health Organization, neurologic conditions are the leading cause of disability adjusted life years (DALYs). Individuals with disabilities face many different challenges, including stigma, discrimination, and social exclusion, and these challenges can prevent people from receiving the care they need. This year’s WBD initiative shows that with a coordinated global effort, we can make the world more accessible and equitable for all—so that when it comes to brain health, no one is left behind.

“This is our chance to show up for people with disabilities that stem from neurologic diseases and create a global effort to break down barriers that prevent them from achieving the highest possible standard of health that everyone deserves,” says David Dodick, MD, Emeritus Professor of Neurology at Mayo Clinic and World Brain Day Co-Chair. “So many of these individuals face stigma, discrimination, and lack of access to professional care and rehabilitation that can change their lives.”

One way we can work to reduce the global burden and disability of brain disease is to increase support and funding for research that will close the current gap in care. With a better universal understanding of brain health, we can make a difference for individuals with disabilities and develop better treatments for everyone impacted by brain disease.

How Brain Disease Causes and Contributes to Disability

There are a range of different ways that brain diseases and disorders create undue burden for individuals and their families. One area where we see a growing global burden is the impact of neurodegenerative diseases on a growing elderly population in the coming decades. Diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s often require increasing levels of care as individuals age, which creates additional, unforeseen financial and emotional stress for their loved ones.

For many people, brain disease leads to a degree of disability that creates a need for significant care. For example, people living with movement disorders often require caregivers, adaptive home equipment, transportation, and other resources. Additionally, many brain diseases can cause disabilities that limit a person’s ability to work, which in turn affects their financial stability and mental health. 

We are also learning more and more about the potential for long-term disability caused by traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Researchers are currently working to better understand how repeated concussions and other head injuries can lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), dementia, and other disabilities. Single severe head injuries can also result in lifelong disability. For someone like Courtney Fraser, who experienced a TBI at the age of 4, the long-term impact of this injury on her memory and mood is an ongoing part of her daily life.

Building awareness, sharing educational resources, and funding research will help ease the financial and emotional burden of brain disease for individuals and their families.

The Importance of Research

At the American Brain Foundation, we know the only way to ease the burden caused by brain disease is by investing in research across the whole brain. Only through continued research will we find the treatments and cures we need to reduce disability and support people living with brain disease. 

Researchers have made significant advancements in treatment in recent years, such as wearable technology for reducing disability caused by brain disease. However, while we’ve seen incredible progress, so many vital research projects still go unfunded every year. In fact, the American Brain Foundation is only able to fund 25% of the applications for research projects we receive. That means 75% of potentially life-saving research projects are going unfunded, leaving millions of people without treatments, cures, and answers.

We can all do our part to spread awareness and lighten the global burden of brain disease. If you want to take action in honor of World Brain Day this year, donate to fund critical brain disease research, join the Brain Squad, or learn about other ways to give.

Stay updated on the latest news from the American Brain Foundation by following us on Twitter and Facebook. Only through research will we find cures for all brain diseases and disorders. Donate today to make a difference.