A Strategy for Brain Health

The Scottish Government has published A New Dementia Strategy for Scotland: Everyone’s Story, setting the vision of a Scotland where people living with dementia and their care partners have their strengths recognised, their rights upheld, and are supported to live an independent life, free from stigma, with person centred treatment, support and care when and where they need it.

Scottish Brain Sciences Founder and Chief Executive, Professor Craig Ritchie, welcomes the new strategy and says the Scottish Government can now build on the momentum it has created, by completing the picture with a separate, renewed national Brain Health Strategy.

There is so much to commend in the new Dementia Strategy and the approach that has been taken over the last eight months of consultation.

Everyone’s Story speaks very clearly to what needs to happen for people with lived experience of dementia. The strategy’s aims are hugely important: of seeing the whole person with dementia, of equity of access to support and treatment, of preserving the human rights of people and their carers, and having a skilled and knowledgeable workforce.

The ambitions to improve prevention and achieve earlier diagnosis are ones that we at Scottish Brain Sciences particularly welcome as they bring the timeline forward to include those living with the early stages of neurodegenerative diseases in Scotland who are not at the dementia stage of their illness.

We need a new strategy for them too.

Scotland has made huge strides over the last few years to be preeminent in the field of promoting brain health and seeking to prevent dementia, both in terms of awareness and research. And, from a Scottish Brain Sciences perspective, we believe we must continue to build on that.

Just as the latest dementia strategy is the fourth, so a new Brain Health Strategy would build on one published in 2021. That was part of a 2020 Programme for Government commitment to ensure: “optimal brain health, and as a consequence dementia prevention, is central to our future public health strategies, research and clinical practice”.

This time around, a new Brain Health Strategy could be the product of the same sort of broad engagement and shared purpose as for the Dementia Strategy.

I imagine the actors will be different, focusing on public health rather than mental health. A new Brain Health Strategy could be developed with the voices of people involved in public health in its widest sense such as the food sector, town planners, the leisure, recreation and fitness industries, and insurance companies.

A new Brain Health Strategy would sit alongside the Dementia Strategy, not as an appendix to it.

Those commitments in the 2020 Programme for Government, and the creation of Brain Health Scotland earlier that year, put Scotland in a preeminent position, leading the global brain health and dementia prevention movement.

This new Dementia Strategy gives a voice and a direction for people with late-stage Alzheimer’s disease and neurodegenerative diseases.

Now, let’s grab the opportunity to give the same emphasis to prevention, early detection and brain health across the life course.

We can, ultimately, prevent dementia in the longer term through a mix of promoting brain health, high quality research into early detection and developing new therapeutic interventions to target the early stages of disease.

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