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Realizing Health Equity: Four Key Areas in Brain Health  

As we approach World Health Day on April 7, 2024, under the theme ‘My Health, My Right,’ it’s imperative to recognize the universal right to quality healthcare, education, and information. Brain health is central to this notion – the cornerstone of an individual’s capacity to realize their full potential over life course. As a dedicated provider, it’s your mission to understand critical areas of brain health and equip yourself to manage highly prevalent conditions in your everyday practice.  


#1 Migraines: Understanding and Addressing the Burden  

Migraines afflict a significant portion of the population, disproportionately affecting women. These debilitating headaches impair productivity and quality of life and result in substantial financial costs, emphasizing the necessity for preventive measures. Although most migraine patients are treated by primary care physicians (PCPs), differences exist in the medications prescribed by PCPs and specialists. Despite the benefits of preventive medication, the number of migraine patients receiving adequate preventive therapy remains low, indicating gaps in migraine management. Enhanced education and a deeper understanding of the full spectrum of treatment options—from over-the-counter analgesics and non-pharmacological interventions to the latest FDA-approved medications—enable healthcare providers to support patients who suffer from migraines better and deliver optimal care.  


Migraine prevalence: Migraines affect up to 17% of women and 6% of men annually, with the highest prevalence in North America.  

Financial burden: Migraines impose a significant economic burden, costing as much as $27 billion annually in the US alone.  


#2 Dementia and Alzheimer’s: Navigating Diagnosis Challenges  

The prevalence of Alzheimer’s and dementia is on the rise, posing a significant challenge to healthcare systems worldwide. Up to 50% of patients who have mild cognitive impairment (MCI) will go on to develop Alzheimer’s dementia, characterized in later stages by severe memory loss, confusion, cachexia, and behavioral changes. While 85% of Americans would prefer an early Alzheimer’s diagnosis, over half of PCPs are not comfortable with providing this, as evidenced by only 25%-50% of patients receiving their yearly required cognitive screen. 

Early diagnosis remains challenging, as primary care physicians often encounter difficulties administering cognitive screenings and discomfort in communicating with patients. Enhanced cognitive screening practices and improved provider education are vital steps toward addressing these diagnostic hurdles and improving patient outcomes.  

Alzheimer’s prevalence: An estimated 6.2 million Americans 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s dementia today, a number expected to grow substantially by 2060 unless medical breakthroughs prevent, slow, or cure AD.  

Diagnostic challenges: Primary care physicians face challenges in administering cognitive screenings and communicating diagnoses, leading to underdiagnosis and undertreatment.  


#3 Psychiatric and Mood Disorders: Bridging the Knowledge Gap  

Psychiatric disorders are one of the leading causes of burden and disability globally, including depression, personality disorders, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, and addictive behaviors. These disorders often exhibit similar clinical presentations, leading to misdiagnosis and inadequate treatment. Left unaddressed, psychiatric disorders profoundly impact patients’ well-being, relationships, employment, and risk of self-harm. Documented evidence highlights the significant health, social, economic, and human costs associated with untreated mental health disorders. Despite this increased recognition, gaps persist in provider knowledge and treatment methodologies. 


Additionally, there remains a substantial gap in scientific knowledge for preventing and treating mental health and substance use disorders. While strides have been made in intervention strategies for substance-use disorders, achieving full recovery remains elusive. Ongoing education and training for healthcare professionals is vital to bridge these knowledge gaps and ensure comprehensive care for individuals with psychiatric conditions.  

Prevalence of psychiatric disorders: Annually, an estimated 18.1% of US adults have any mental illness, underscoring the urgency for enhanced diagnosis and treatment.  

Knowledge gap: Healthcare providers often lack adequate knowledge of current screening and treatment options for psychiatric disorders, impeding optimal patient care.  


#4 Exploring Emerging Medicines: Cannabinoids and Psychedelics  

In the realm of emerging medicines, cannabinoids and psychedelics offer promising therapeutic uses for various conditions. Understanding these substances’ pharmacology and clinical applications is crucial for healthcare providers navigating the complex landscape of treatment options. By staying informed about FDA-approved medications and ongoing research, clinicians can harness the potential of these novel therapies to optimize patient care.  

Therapeutic potential: Cannabinoids and psychedelics show promise in treating various conditions, highlighting the importance of provider education on their clinical applications.  

Knowledge gap: Healthcare providers may need help to navigate the regulatory landscape and clinical evidence surrounding emerging medicines, emphasizing the need for ongoing education and training.  


Join Us at BRAINWeek 2024: Advancing Brain Health Together  

As advocates for universal access to quality healthcare, we invite you to join us at BRAINWeek 2024: GAPS IN BRAIN HEALTH: Putting Together the Pieces. From May 9-11 at The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa, Scottsdale, AZ, you’ll delve into the latest research and practical strategies in brain health to advance patient care, foster community well-being, and drive progress in this fast-growing field. 

LEARN MORE about BRAINWeek 2024!