Brain Health: The Promise of Science & Social Change

08/22/2017 05:09 pm ET Updated Aug 22, 2017

The brain is an organ, just like any other. This is one of principles that guides our work at the Flawless Foundation, and we believe it’s essential that the medical community, political leaders, and the broader public come to embrace this view of the brain as well. For too long, we’ve understood, talked about, and treated the brain as separate from the rest of the body, and as a result, the health of this organ -- brain health -- has been overlooked or neglected. Furthermore, those with brain health disorders haven’t benefitted from the same level of care and concern, either from a medical standpoint or culturally. All of this needs to change, and it begins with seeing the brain for exactly what it is.

David O. Okonkwo, MD, PhD, Professor and Executive Vice Chair of Neurosurgery, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
Rafael Mota
David O. Okonkwo, MD, PhD, Professor and Executive Vice Chair of Neurosurgery, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

The science is already here. Every day, neuroscience is revealing more and more about the nuances of this vital organ and about how to care for its health. Historically we’ve intervened with treatment far too late -- as the advocacy organization Mental Health America says, at “stage four.” Now, thanks to medical and technological breakthroughs, we have the potential for improved practices in prevention and early diagnosis.

Steve McCarroll, PhD,  Associate Professor of Genetics, Harvard Medical School
Rafael Mota
Steve McCarroll, PhD, Associate Professor of Genetics, Harvard Medical School

We now have the ability to screen for traumatic brain injury, meaning that the approximately 2.5 million people in the US who sustain a TBI annually have a better chance to diagnose these injuries and access appropriate treatment faster. We’re developing new models of collaborative and coordinated care that will help keep people from slipping through the cracks. More and more, research is showing the many ways our minds and bodies are connected, and we are seeing greater emphasis on holistic treatments and approaches.

Musician and activist, Michael Franti, performing at the 2016 Music Festival.
Rafael Mota
Musician and activist, Michael Franti, performing at the 2016 Music Festival.

The keys to the change that’s needed are found in both science and society, and the organizations that truly stand at the intersection of these two arms of our cause, are the affiliated One Mind Institute and One Mind, founded by Shari and Garen Staglin and Patrick Kennedy. By supporting the collaborative research that is transforming our understanding of the brain, while also working to raise awareness and combat stereotypes, these organizations are leading the way, blazing a bold path forward toward better treatment and greater acceptance for brain health challenges. They support groups and individuals doing research in many of the areas we mentioned above, and every year they hold an event to share the most exciting scientific developments, and discuss how we can change the culture around brain health.

The Music Festival for Brain Health is one of the country’s most important events in support of brain health research and education, and since it started has raised over $280 million for this cause. With each year that we’ve attended the Festival, the science has been more promising, the level of collaboration more inspiring, and the vision for the future more hopeful. We have challenges ahead -- in both science and society -- but the Music Festival for Brain Health brings out the best and brightest, and we always leave feeling confident that a more flawless future is possible.

Visit the Music Festival for Brain Health website for more information on this remarkable day of hope.

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