AAN Ushers in a New Vision for Brain Health

Megan Brooks

September 27, 2023

The American Academy of Neurology (AAN) has outlined its vision for optimizing brain health by 2050. The new strategy includes a focus on preventive neurology, accelerating scientific discovery, and advancing public policy and brain health education.

"The AAN's vision for brain health is a step toward transforming the approach in neurology from managing brain disease ― what we are already doing in our daily practice ― to preventing disease altogether or optimizing brain health even in those individuals who are living with brain disease," the lead author of the position statement, Natalia S. Rost, MD, MPH, told Medscape Medical News.

"This paradigm shift toward preventive strategies across the entire individual life span to avoid or ameliorate brain and other neurological disorders is what is going to secure a future of optimal brain health for everyone," said Rost, Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.

"Today, our preventive approach is a good start. In the near future, we hope to provide evidence-based practice guidelines in brain health for every stage of life and state of individual health," Rost added.

The AAN's brain health platform and position statement were published online September 20 in Neurology to coincide withpresentation at the 2023 AAN Brain Health Summit in Washington, DC.

A New Era of Preventive Neurology

Through a collaborative process with multiple stakeholders, the AAN's new definition of brain health is a "continuous state of attaining and maintaining the optimal neurologic function that best supports one's physical, mental, and social well-being through every stage of life.

"Neurologists are uniquely positioned to advance brain health through the emerging field of preventive neurology, which offers management strategies that either prevent or mitigate neurologic disease onset and progression," the AAN report notes.

"After decades of practice advances in evaluation and management of neurologic diseases, the era of preventive neurology ― a cross-disciplinary field that focuses on diagnostic, treatment, and nonpharmacologic intervention strategies that offset the development and progression of neurologic diseases ― has arrived," it notes.

The AAN's vision for national brain health by 2050 includes having evidence-based practice guidelines on brain health for all ages that are available and continuously updated.

The organization also wants to make "brain health visits" standard of care and part of "well visits" at every stage across the life span.

Other goals include accelerating scientific discovery in brain health through cross-disciplinary collaboration and enhancing brain health education, as well as public and patient engagement to advance public policy in brain health.

"All Hands on Deck"

Rost told Medscape Medical News that to advance the AAN's envisioned future of optimal brain health, "we will need all hands on deck ― every neurologist joining us through advocacy, scientific research, and patient care will have an opportunity to contribute in a unique and impactful way.

"We will need to break the siloes between different medical professions and traditional ways of thinking about brain health and disease. We will need to build up our knowledge base and educate a new generation of brain health specialists. We will need to collaborate, innovate, and keep moving the agenda forward along with the large number of stakeholders in brain health out there ― and everyone can find their role in this transformative process," Rost said.

She encouraged stakeholders to "get involved with the AAN, have your voice heard, and join us in changing the future of optimal brain health for all."

No commercial funding was reported. Rost has received personal compensation for serving as an editor, associate editor, or editorial advisory board member for Stroke-AHA/ASA Journal; research support from NIH; and publishing royalties from a publication relating to healthcare.

Neurology. Published online September 20, 2023. Full text

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