Neurological Health Charities Canada (NHCC) is a collective of organizations that represent people with chronic, often progressive, brain and nervous system diseases, disorders and injuries in Canada. The Spina Bifida & Hydrocephalus Association of Ontario is proud to be a member of Neurological Health Charities Canada.
In Canada, there is a lack of information about the extent and impact of neurological conditions (brain and nervous system diseases, disorders, conditions and injuries). This makes it difficult to plan effective policy, programs and investments. NHCC is committed to working towards filling this gap in information.
To improve the quality of life for all persons with chronic brain conditions, and their caregivers, by: elevating brain health to the top of government agendas; increasing awareness and influencing government decision makers regarding brain health; and, ensuring that research, prevention, treatments and supports for those living with chronic brain conditions are universally accessible and fully funded.
The brain is valued as a critical determinant of the human experience. Matters of the brain are considered a social, health and economic priority for all levels of government, resulting in a society where individuals living with chronic brain conditions are supported to live to their full potential, make choices within an informed and tolerant society.
Evidence suggests that 1 in 3, or more than 10 million Canadians are living with a brain condition today (5.5 million with a neurological condition; 4.9 million with a mental health challenge – extrapolated from data presented by The Society for Neuroscience, USA).
The NHCC Coalition
In their 2006 publication Neurological disorders: public health challenges, the World Health Organization concluded that “a large body of evidence shows that policymakers and health-care providers may be unprepared to cope with the predicted rise in the prevalence of neurological and other chronic disorders and the disability resulting from the extensions of life expectancy and aging populations globally.”
To address this issue, and the present-day needs of the over 10 million Canadians living with a brain condition, a group of neurological health charities came together in 2008 to collaborate as Neurological Health Charities Canada (NHCC). The coalition is actively engaged in driving policy at all levels of government. Membership continues to grow.
In 2009, the NHCC secured a commitment from the Government of Canada to fund Canada’s first-ever National Population Health Study of Neurological Conditions (the Study). Now underway, the $15 million Study is co-led by the Public Health Agency of Canada and the NHCC and will consist of 18 projects that together will deliver an unprecedented understanding of the scope and impact of neurological conditions on individuals, families and Canadian society overall.
In 2010, NHCC tabled a framework for a National Brain Strategy detailing policy themes unanimously supported by the NHCC membership as priority areas of concern for Canadians living with neurological conditions.
In 2011 the Government of Canada made important commitments in two areas of the framework – neuroscience research and caregiver support. The NHCC enthusiastically applauds these investments and has offered the government our collective support in their implementation.
In 2012, NHCC accepted an invitation to present to the Standing Committee on Health on the needs of people living with neurological conditions and their families. At this table we focused on our seven key areas of: caregiver support, income security, genetic fairness, public awareness and education, neuroscience research, brain health/prevention, and integrated care.
The brain is a complex organ, made up of 100 billion neurons (brain cells) – and it is the least understood. Ninety per cent of what we have learned about the brain as been in the past fifteen years, but researchers still have far to go toward fully understanding brain function.
What we do know is that there are more than 1,000 diseases, disorders and injuries affecting the brain, spinal cord and nervous system (brain conditions). Most are progressive and degenerative, with no known cause or cure. And, while therapies exist for some conditions, in most cases, there is no way to stop or even slow the progression.
NeuroScience Canada reports that one in three Canadians will be affected by one or more of these brain conditions at some point in their lives. Brain conditions are not a normal part of aging; however we do see an increased incidence associated with aging. As the Canadian population ages, the impact of brain conditions will be staggering.
Brain conditions do not discriminate. They strike men and women, young and old. The resulting burden manifests not only the health of our citizens, but also our communities and social systems, and our economy. The enormous burden of these conditions has been seriously underestimated by traditional epidemiological and health statistical methods.
Within the next 20 years, brain disorders will become the leading cause of death and disability in Canada. Policymakers and health care professionals are not prepared to cope with this predicted rise in brain disorders. Recently, the Government of Canada invested in the issue of mental health however to adequately plan for the full impact of brain disorders, policymakers must also acknowledge and invest in the full spectrum of neurological and psychiatric conditions.
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