The Launch of the Italian Brain Health Strategy

The One Brain, One Health Manifesto outlines strategy through 2031.

Matilde Leonardi

By Matilde Leonardi and Alessandro Padovani

Globally, brain diseases represent the leading cause of disability and the second leading cause of death, with a burden expected to increase with the growth and aging of the population. These pathologies already pose a significant burden on health care systems today, and all estimates show that, without the appropriate interventions, the situation is destined to worsen in the coming years.

Faced with this epidemiological picture, the World Health Organization (WHO) has developed and provided the world with the Global Action Plan on Epilepsy and Other Neurological Disorders (IGAP). The plan was  endorsed by all member states at the World Health Assembly in 2022, and calls for radical change with respect to brain health and neurological disorders.

The Italian Strategy for Brain Health.

The Società Italiana di Neurologia (SIN) intends to implement the WHO Global Action Plan in Italy through the Italian Brain Health Strategy 2024-2031, launched in March during World Brain Week 2024. The strategy serves as a starting point for a reflection that involves all national stakeholders on the possible interventions to be implemented in the fields of health planning, prevention, research, diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation, and social issues.

The SIN adopts the definition of “brain health” provided in the IGAP by the WHO as a condition in which “each individual can realize his or her capabilities and can optimize his or her cognitive, emotional, psychological, and behavioral domains to deal with life situations,” in the belief that an overall approach to all these aspects can improve the mental and physical well-being of the individual and reduce the impact of brain diseases on patients, caregivers, the health care system, and the social and economic fabric.

To spread this approach to brain health, the SIN intends to start a fruitful comparison with the so-called “6 Ps.” They are:

  • Patients (patient and family associations)
  • Health Care Professionals
  • Providers (of public and private health and social services, therapies, and technologies)
  • Partners (scientific societies, universities, and research institutes)
  • Politicians (decision makers and financiers of public policies and institutions)

Program cover of the One Brain, One Health meeting.

The General Population

The Italian approach promoted by SIN finds space in the Italian Manifesto, “One Brain, One Health,” presented to the Chamber of Deputies with dozens of institutional representatives in March. The manifesto outlines the key points of the Italian Strategy for Brain Health 2024-2031 and identifies the priorities for action to be implemented in the coming years with the collaboration of all the actors in the social and health care panorama — in particular all the parties involved in various capacities in brain health.

The manifesto considers the brain as a single complex system in relation to the physical and social environment, where the two components operate together and influence each other. One brain therefore means that each person’s brain and mind are strongly connected with the brains and minds of all others, and that the health of the brain, therefore, is equivalent to the health of the community. One health is based on the recognition that human health, animal health, and ecosystem health are inextricably linked and therefore support the existence of a single health, where no component predominates over the others and all are closely connected and interdependent.

The Italian Strategy for Brain Health 2024-2031 is also in line with the global WHO IGAP implementation plans, promoted by the World Federation of Neurology (WFN) and promoted by the European Academy of Neurology (EAN), which launched its Brain Health Mission in 2022.

The primary objective of the Italian Strategy is to create awareness about Brain Health throughout the country and start the implementation of initiatives to prevent and combat the development of mental and neurological diseases. The WHO IGAP provides a clear and precise map of actions that each country will need to take to optimize brain health.

The “One Brain, One Health” Manifesto — in total harmony with what is contained in the WHO IGAP — allows us to define a work plan in line with the WHO global strategy and to place brain health and the reduction of the burden of brain diseases as Italian priority for the coming years. The Italian Brain Health Strategy 2024-2031 is thus in line with the global WHO IGAP implementation plans, promoted by the WFN and the EAN.

Representatives of the WHO, WFN, and EAN.

With the Italian Brain Health Strategy, our country has the opportunity to be among the first to adopt concrete solutions to enhance, promote, and protect the brain throughout the entire lifespan and in all segments of the population, because brain health plays a fundamental role at any age and for every person, regardless of social and geographical conditions. To face this enormous challenge, different actions are needed to increase awareness, education, research, but also to create new integrated public health approaches (Global Health) and boost the empowerment of people. Collaboration between those who deal with the different fields of neurology, psychiatry, neuropsychiatry, psychology, neurorehabilitation, and in general, research and treatment in neuroscience is an essential requirement to improve the effectiveness of interventions and to reduce the impact of neurological and mental pathologies.

During the event held at the Italian Parliament in front of the Minister of Health, representatives of WHO, WFN, and the EAN (Dr. Devora Kerstel, Prof. Wolfgang Grisold, and Prof. Paul Boon), Parlamentarians, and representatives of more than 18 scientific and patient organizations, the manifesto was signed, and Italy is ready to work on its implementation to promote brain health and to fight the burden of neurological disorders. •

Matilde Leonardi is Società Italiana di Neurologia (SIN) board member, and Alessandro Padovani is SIN president.