Brain and neurological disorders are one of the most challenging areas in the field of medicine in the 21st century. With costs related to both treatment and the economic burden of the disability itself, major governments around the world are realizing something has to be done. In Canada alone, severe mental health problems cost the government $60 billion – roughly 38% of the total burden of all illnesses in the country.
Even though, the economic and social impact of brain disorders outweighs that of both cancer and cardiovascular disease, neuroscience has yet to see the kind of funding that other major diseases get. But the Canadian government, understanding that with the current demographic situation things can only get worse, is now taking action.
Recently, brain research in Canada got a timely boost in funding by Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. He matched Brain Canada’s initiative of $100 million in funding, dollar for dollar, which will in turn lead to better mental health care for those with brain disorders and also help fund research and development and innovation in the field of neuroscience.
Brain Canada has been pivotal in advancing brain research and has produced some excellent results. Along with Federal funding, millions of Canadians will be affected by this private and public partnership, and countless lives will potentially be changed.
The Canadian Government’s 2011 Budget stated, “To support Brain Canada’s efforts, Budget 2011 proposes to allocate up to $100 million to establish the Canada Brain Research Fund, which will support the very best Canadian neuroscience, fostering collaborative research and accelerating the pace of discovery, in order to improve the health and quality of life of Canadians who suffer from brain disorders.”
Rupert Duchesne, Chair, Brain Canada, in response to the mutual venture said, “This major commitment to brain research is crucial to addressing diseases that are such a huge burden in our country and around the world. One in three Canadians will face a mental illness, or neurological disorder or injury in their lifetime. Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, depression, schizophrenia, stroke, autism, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, migraine, epilepsy and concussions are just a few of the wide spectrum of disorders that will benefit from new understanding and practical treatments arising out of the Canadian Brain Research Fund.”
The Canada Brain Research Fund is a solid stepping stone towards finding treatments and ultimately cures for brain disorders. Brain Canada also proposes to team up with major Canadian health institutions, research centers, colleges and universities and other organizations to join in the cause. This combined funding will really help to convert research into testing and treatments which will hopefully lead to full-fledged cures.
Accountability and transparency are key factors in any funded project to see that the money reaches those who are genuinely worthy. The Canadian Association for Neuroscience had a strong hand in founding Brain Canada’s research initiative. Steps will be in place to make sure chosen recipients are fairly selected, and they will be monitored and remain accountable at all times with set deliverables. This will not only ensure excellent research in the field of brain sciences, but will also mean that the break through results and outcomes that come from this research will eventually help mental health patients and their families.
Initially Canadian brain research only supported individual labs and scientists. Since the early 1990s, this has changed. The past two decades has seen group research, with scientists specializing in different areas of the brain teaming up, and the result has been a surge in innovation, testing and treatments. Around the world, 90 percent of all we know about this major organ has come from research and study in the past 20 years.
As Dr. David Kaplan, Vice-Chair of Science in Brain Canada, explains, “The future of innovative brain research will greatly benefit from a collaborative model that enables researchers to join efforts in order to enhance research of individuals, labs, institutions and provinces. Understanding the linkages across various neurological and psychiatric conditions holds the key to the next generation of breakthroughs in this field.”
A strong leader in the area of brain research, Canada is accredited with making some critically important discoveries, with Canadian research labs shining in the forefront. Therefore taxpaying Canadians suffering from a disability or living with a mentally ill family member have a lot riding on The Canada Brain Research Fund.
Since it was announced, there has been strong and sincere hope that this initiative will lead to major discoveries in the field of neuroscience, alleviate the massive economic burden on our society today, and urge other countries to follow in Canada’s footsteps in giving the area of mental health and disabilities the attention it deserves.