Disorders of the brain, i.e. mental and neurological conditions, impose a tremendous social and economic burden on European society and are among the leading causes of disability and death.
In 2010, it was estimated that approximately 179 million European citizens were living with a brain disease (Gustavsson et al, 2010). Recent figures provided by the OECD estimated that in 2015 ill mental health alone costed the EU more than 600 billion euro (OECD, 2018).
Data released by the JAMA Psychiatry in 2015 indicated that 14,3% of deaths worldwide were attributable to mental disorders (Walker et al, 2015). What is more, the Lancet recently estimated that neurological conditions were the cause of 16,8% of global deaths in 2015 (GBD 2015 Neurological Disorders Collaborator Group, 2017).
In the light of the above, it is crucial that robust measures are jointly taken by EU governments, patient groups, caregivers and scientific communities across Europe in order to address the human burden caused by brain disorders.
In December 2017, the Norwegian Government took an important step in this direction by launching a National Brain Health Strategy which constitutes a key tool for advancing knowledge about the diseased brain, enhancing brain health and supporting brain research.
The “Share4Brain” project
It aims to follow the example of Norway by uniting patients, brain researchers, scientists, clinicians and carers at national level and providing them with the skills and knowledge necessary to promote brain research and raise awareness about the societal impact of brain diseases.
Representatives of the above groups will meet on multiple occasions during the lifecycle of the project in order to share good practices, exchange perspectives on effective advocacy strategies and learn how to engage with decision-makers at national and EU levels.
Furthermore, the project aims to bring them together within National Brain Councils (NBCs), thereby uniting all stakeholders involved in brain research within transversal platforms that operate at country level.
This will enable them to speak with a single voice when addressing societal problems associated with brain conditions. Lastly, “Share4Brain” will aim to enhance cross-border cooperation between NBCs for the purpose of defining key priorities for National Brain Plans, which will ultimately benefit people living with mental or neurological conditions.
Our goal is to draw the attention of the academic and the general public, as well as relevant state institutions, to the importance of the development of basic and clinical research in the field of neurosciences, as well as to ensure, by integrating all levels of research, better prevention, better diagnosis and better treatment of patients suffering from neurological and psychiatric disorders.
During the second year, we will compose a report on “Successful Campaigns and Strategies for Brain Awareness in Europe“. The European Brain Council (EBC) will share results of European level research for the Brain.
We will create a project website in WordPress platform (this site), linking to the partners’ own websites, where all project outcomes will be uploaded.
Several Focus Groups organized by representatives of the partners aimed at familiarizing the participants with their work will be facilitated during each transnational meeting. Furthermore, a Webinar on relevant EU policies impacting brain research as well as on how to engage with the European Institutions will be organized as part of the project.
Lastly, various round-table discussions will be held in order to enable the participants to share their perspectives on priorities that should be included in National Brain Plans. In addition, all stakeholders will be invited to share good practices and examples of brain advocacy strategies in which they themselves have been involved.
By including in this Erasmus+ partnership the partner “SrBC” from Serbia, we widen the collaboration in Brain Education not only between EU and Member states but also by including emerging Associated countries and regions.
By inviting the partner Greek Carers Network, we underline the significant contribution made by family carers of patients with brain disorders to health and the European economy as a whole.
Patients will be included in the project in the form of a Patient Advisory Board (PAB). We will encourage the participation of the members of the PAB who will be people suffering from Brain disorders.
The above goals will primarily be achieved by means of a series of project meetings, focus groups, workshops in Brussels and Bari. What is more, a main conference, constituting a key milestone in promoting brain health, will be held in Athens at the office of the European Parliament in Greece during September 2020 and a Brain Awareness event in Madrid. During these events, the participants will be introduced to various cases constituting effective brain health advocacy strategies.