BRAINHEALTH-POLICY: Population brain health as a new criterion to inform policymaking: Life-course and gender considerations

by A. Leist, S. Zanaj - University of Luxembourg and A. Bertogg - University of Konstanz (Germany)

Background. Policymakers increasingly recognize the importance of brain health, broadly defined as ‘preservation of optimal brain integrity and mental and cognitive function at a given age in the absence of overt brain diseases that affect normal brain function’ (Wang et al., 2020) for the capacity of societies’ functioning: (1) Individuals have to manage and navigate increasingly complex and digital environments in private life, political participation, and professional careers; (2) It is vital to delay later-life cognitive impairment, as it is a heavy burden for affected individuals and their families, as well as costly for welfare states and healthcare systems. Concurrently, population health research on risk factors for dementia and cognitive decline has identified a number of individual-level lifestyle and health behaviours, as well as contextual – i.e., policy-driven – determinants (related to human development, economic conditions, or educational opportunities) influencing brain health in the short, medium, and long run.

Research objectives and methods. We aim to convene a workshop to: (1) Build a conceptual framework and systematise hypothesised policy impacts on the under-researched links between policymaking and brain health, including a life-course and equity perspective; (2) Taking stock of the evidence with regard to relevant policy levels (regional, national, supranational) and policy fields – related to education, public health, work, retirement, possibly also migration, youth, environmental policies – and possible interdependencies that could, through different pathways, influence brain health; and (3) Set up a future research agenda to develop the (under-researched) evidence with regard to methods, relevant actual and future datasets, and specific areas of interest, e.g., equity, life course. These objectives will be achieved through preparation of the workshop via a concept note, moderated discussions and break-out groups, and post-workshop writing up of a framework paper on policy impacts on brain health.

Proposed outcomes. This interdisciplinary workshop, convening renowned and next-generation research leaders in population brain health, policy, neurology, life course, and gender, will open up new research avenues at the frontiers of knowledge to achieve research excellence through (1) advancing state of the art in brain health research and (2) educating the next generation of researchers.


Prof. Anja LEIST

Prof. Skerdilajda ZANAJ

Dr. Ariane BERTOGG