The team from Community Interest Company Oxford Health Policy Forum recently took part in the prestigious European Academy of Neurology (EAN) congress in Vienna to showcase the influential work of their brain health initiatives.
The theme of this year’s event was “getting evidence into practice”, which was especially pertinent for Oxford Health Policy Forum, whose current campaigns aim to change public policy and healthcare approaches to the treatment and management of conditions including multiple sclerosis (MS), Alzheimer’s Disease and schizophrenia.
The organisation’s mission is to highlight that these conditions present a significant and growing socioeconomic burden worldwide and action can be taken to improve quality of life for those who are affected.
“We always say that what’s good for the heart is good for the brain,” said Dr. Emma Georgiou, Executive Director of Oxford Health Policy Forum.
“What this means is that there’s increasing evidence to show that positive changes to diet and lifestyle can have a significant impact not only on the management of disease but also on the likelihood of it developing in the first place.”
“We really want national programmes to be established so that education, detection and intervention can take place at a much earlier stage than is currently happening, because earlier detection will ultimately mean better management of disease progression.”
Oxford Health Policy Forum is a not-for-profit community interest organisation working with medical researchers, specialists, policy experts and patient advocates to drive change in health policy at local, regional and global levels to benefit all those living with life-changing conditions and those who support them.
Their groundbreaking 2015 report, Brain Health: Time Matters in Multiple Sclerosis, has led to progress in developing global health policy for the management of MS and has had a major impact on how MS care is approached across the world.
The European Academy of Neurology aims to promote neurological excellence by working closely with 47 European national societies and supporting its 45,000 members with resources and networking.
Its annual congress is an opportunity for members to meet, share research, make connections and form collaborations to tackle the major challenges in neurology. This year was the first time the event has been held in-person since before the Covid-19 pandemic.
At the congress, the team from Oxford Health Policy Forum met researchers and other stakeholders and showcased their brain health initiatives – Think Brain Health Global and MS Brain Health.
Think Brain Health Global focuses on helping healthcare professionals, policymakers and the general public act early to prioritise brain health, and MS Brain Health calls for policy changes to promote timely and holistic care in MS.
The team also announced that they will be updating their widely endorsed policy report, Schizophrenia: time to commit to policy change, in response to the latest evidence in the field and the ongoing effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The updated report will highlight the need for better access to and delivery of high-quality care in schizophrenia, so that those diagnosed have a good chance of leading independent, fulfilled lives.
It is also hoped this will lead to less discrimination around the condition, which is often misunderstood and inaccurately characterised in both popular media and in films and drama representations.
“It was wonderful to be at this important global event in person after the pandemic, to be able to meet with so many colleagues undertaking such important work in the field, and to have the opportunity to discuss our projects,” said Dr. Georgiou.
“We’ve had in-depth conversations with so many delegates and it’s these kinds of relationships, formed at events such as the EAN congress, that ensure the progression of work such as ours. Attending the congress has been incredibly positive for us.”