Experts come together to put brain health at the forefront of the public health agenda
By Cathy Beveridge | Tuesday 30 November 2021
Launch of Brain Health Consensus Statement
Tuesday 30th November
Today marks the launch of a cross-sector consensus statement on brain health led by Alzheimer’s Research UK that aims to put the concept at the forefront of the public health agenda. The statement, Beyond dementia risk reduction: a consensus statement on Brain Health, sets out a course of action for addressing brain health throughout life – not just in old age.
The statement has been created following a virtual roundtable event earlier this year that brought together experts including researchers, health professionals and people with lived experience of dementia.
More than 30 leading organisations and specialists across the public health community, including the Faculty of Public Health, Alzheimer’s Society, Stroke Association, Royal Society for Public Health and Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), have signed the consensus statement in support of the concept of ‘brain health’ and to show what actions need to happen next to embed it into our healthcare system.
Alongside the launch of the statement, the UK’s leading dementia research charity is calling for brain health and dementia risk reduction to be a core component of the government’s upcoming Dementia Strategy.
Nearly a million people in the UK are living with dementia and the number is currently expected to grow to nearly two million by 2050. This statement comes at a time when there is a growing scientific understanding of the factors that influence dementia risk.
The signatories set out a clear course for action: public health strategies for dementia risk reduction should be centred on maximising brain health throughout a person’s life, by keeping the brain engaged and prolonging the number of years spent with good brain health. These actions could potentially reduce the number of people who go on to develop dementia and other long-term conditions.
However, many people still believe the misconception that dementia is an inevitable part of ageing. Recent statistics from Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Dementia Attitudes Monitor showed that only a third of people (33%) were aware that there are steps that they can take to influence their risk of developing the condition.
Embedding brain health
Estimates suggest that up to 40% of cases of dementia could be prevented or delayed by tackling a range of risk factors. Evidence shows that looking after heart health, staying mentally active and keeping connected with people can all help to support a healthy brain.
The evidence shows that there is a need to radically shift perceptions of how people can influence their risk of developing dementia and that it needs to be considered at every stage of a person’s life, not just as they approach old age.
To improve public understanding and help individuals reduce their risk of dementia, the consensus statement argues that brain health must be embedded as part of government and public health policymaking.
The statement points out that brain health is about more than dementia risk, as there are common risk factors shared between dementia and other long-term health conditions.
Susan Mitchell, Head of Policy at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“With nearly a million people in the UK living with dementia and the numbers currently expected to double by 2050, we need policymakers to take action to support people in reducing their risk of dementia during every stage of their life. This means embedding the concept of ‘brain health’ across healthcare systems and putting in place strategies to tackle the barriers people face in looking after their brains.
“Reframing dementia risk reduction as being about supporting good brain health has the potential to engage more people in this conversation. More than just that, we want this statement to be a catalyst for action across the public health community. With more than 30 experts and organisations signing today’s consensus statement, it’s clear that many across the sector agree that brain health must be a priority for the UK.
“Brain health must be a key element of the prevention agenda if we are to reduce the number of people developing dementia in the future. It needs to be a priority for government and key decision-makers both in local government and public health, but also as part of the wider public health conversation. New brain health policies should consider the full range of risk factors and wider aspects that can influence someone’s health.”