Brain Health as a Global Priority – time for the EU to act now

The global momentum to deliver a more coordinated response to the threat posed by neurological disorders is increasing.

In 2018 ‘mental health and neurological disorders’ were added to the list of priority non-communicable diseases by world leaders.
This has led to some structural changes at the World Health Organisation, with the recent establishment of a “Brain Health” team within the Department for Mental Health and Substance Use.

More importantly, earlier this month, the WHO Executive Board (EB) discussed Epilepsy. A formal Decision was taken to broaden to scope of this work to explore ‘Epilepsy and its Neurological Synergies’. This Decision was endorsed by countries worldwide, including all EU countries.

A draft resolution on the matter is now being discussed ahead of the World Health Assembly taking place in May this year. This is a landmark decision and one of the few times that neurological disorders have been considered collectively in such a manner. During the EB discussions it also became clear that there is a push for bringing mental health and neurology under one umbrella of brain health.

To capitalise on this global prioritisation, EFNA – along with the European Academy of Neurology and the European Brain Council – organised a meeting at the European Parliament on February 18th. The meeting was entitled: “Brain Health as a Global Priority – time for the EU to act now”.

The meeting heard the latest statistics from the Global Burden of Disease Study, highlighting how neurological disorders are the leading cause of disability worldwide, and the second leading cause of death.

Later presenters highlighted the global trends mentioned above, and how these could be leveraged at EU level. Some concrete examples from the field were also discussed; including successful global advocacy work on epilepsy and national efforts to create a Norwegian Brain Plan.

“We need to act fast and we need to act together!”

The event made for a clear and strong signal to EU policy makers that our efforts need to be urgently stepped up. The event’s co-patron and Vice-President of the Parliament Ms. Ewa Kopacz said “We need to act fast and we need to act together!”

High-level representatives from the European Parliament, European Commission and EU Presidencies also reiterated opportunities for this international activity to be reflected in EU initiatives.

At the meeting a Call to Action, prepared by organisers and endorsed by supporting MEPs was announced. The document calls for EU policy makers to acknowledge and use latest data on burden of brain disease, give a higher priority to neurology as well as brain as a whole, develop European and national plans addressing brain health and sustain adequate level of brain research.

In the afternoon, a workshop for convened with invited participants to begin planning an advocacy strategy for neurology in the context of these new opportunities.
This work will continue throughout 2020. To learn more, email:


Read the complete meeting report here

Access the presentations here