When an individual is faced with a brain condition, every aspect of their life may be compromised. There are over 1,000 different types of brain disorders – neurological, developmental and psychiatric – affecting people at every age and stage of life. Some are linked to genetics, others, more random. While neuroscience continues to make amazing discoveries, information about the cause and cure of most neurological conditions remains a mystery.

A united front 

According to the World Health Organization, neurological disorders affect approximately one billion people world-wide. In Canada that number is 5.5 million. Currently, it is expected that 1 in 3 Canadians will experience a brain or mental health condition at some point during their lifetime.

In 2008, Neurological Health Charities Canada (NHCC) was formed as a collective of charitable organizations tasked with working to improve the quality of life for all persons living with chronic brain conditions, disorders and injuries, and their caregivers, by elevating brain health to the top of government agendas and ensuring that research, prevention, treatments and supports for those living with chronic brain conditions are universally accessible. For the first time in Canadian history, the momentum to elevate the importance of the brain on the policy agenda is beginning to build.

“In this report, you will learn about some of the most exciting research and innovations coming from the minds of Canadians, the potential impacts on discoveries being made in Canada, and overlapping benefits these potential cures and treatments can have.”

At the provincial level we have recently witnessed the birth of organizations like the Ontario Brain Institute and the Brain Research Centre at the University of British Columbia.  At the federal level, when NHCC first approached Parliament, we focused on three key objectives: to establish a population health study to measure the prevalence and incidence of brain conditions in Canada, to make brain health a key priority for policy decision makers, and to establish a Canadian Brain Strategy. The response has been swift.

A plan of action

In 2009, the Government of Canada provided $15 million to fund the National Population Health Study on Neurological Conditions, a project managed jointly by NHCC and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). Later that year, and in parallel to the “Study”, the federal Health Committee passed a motion for parliamentarians to conduct their own review of brain conditions.

This past June, the federal Health Committee’s review was completed and its findings tabled to the House of Commons in a report entitled: Focusing on the Brain: An Examination of Neurological Diseases in Canada. The report focused on three broad themes: the brain as a whole, fostering neurological research in Canada, and improving the quality of life for those with brain conditions.

It also provided key recommendations including, that “the Government of Canada consider using the results of the National Population Health Study on Neurological Diseases in collaboration with the provinces and territories, as the basis of a pan-Canadian strategy for neurological diseases”. (p.11).

This recommendation was not only strong but very timely. The National Population Health Study on Neurological Conditions will conclude in 2013 and we are hopeful that the collected data will be used to form an evidenced-based Canadian Brain Strategy.  We strongly encourage all Canadians to get involved in the support and development of this strategy.

A more intelligent future

In the fall of 2013, NHCC and PHAC will be conducting a consultation process with the public through online surveys as well as with key stakeholder groups through regional meetings.  Feedback from this process will be used to help finalize a report on the Study’s key findings to be tabled to the federal Minister of Health. Your voice matters.

Please get involved by joining our National Brain Community. Register at mybrainmatters.ca and help us build a National Brian Strategy for all Canadians.