Mary Baker is President of the European Brain Council (EBC)
Gian Luigi Lenzi (GLL): What is the value of EBC?
Mary Baker (MB): The challenge of brain diseases to the European society is immense. It impacts the individual living with the illness, the family and is a huge societal cost to communities. In October 2011 in the European Parliament we launched the Cost Document which showed that nearly 800 billion Euros is spent in Europe on the management of brain diseases. This is more than is spent on cancer plus diabetes, plus cardiovascular illness. Because of this challenge, it is vital that we work together to seek better ways of managing these long term chronic illnesses and this, hopefully, can be achieved by bringing together all of the players who are the members of the European Brain Council.
GLL: What is the value of the Year of the Brain?
MB: To raise awareness within our European society to brain diseases and to understand the great value of one’s brain. To encourage families to do more about prevention of brain injury, to protect, nurture and provide innovative treatments (therapies) to its disease states and to increase societal responsibility.
GLL: How does EBC raise the value of co-operation at the European level?
MB: The way our society has constructed itself is that we all tend to operate in silos. Disciplines emerge to focus their study upon understanding the individual organs: cardiology, nephrology, neurology, rheumatology, etc. The developing pharmaceutical companies followed suit, marketing products for CNS, cardiology, etc. But today, we have an ageing society, populations with multiple pathology; our over 65s can expect three or more diseases and we need better understanding of these interactions. We need to share concerns and solutions, to improve the general management of health and that can only be achieved by co-operation.
GLL: What is the added value of co-operation at the European level?
MB: This really needs co-operation between excellent science which will lead to innovation by improving clinical treatment, surgical procedures, pharmacovigilance, patient reported outcomes and understanding the value of health economics. To fully appreciate the phrase ‘from bench to the bedside’ all disciplines need to understand the procedures and the challenges, to find an overall solution of speeding up the regulatory procedures. It is no longer acceptable for one ‘silo’ to move itself forward only to be confronted by conflict from another discipline that foresees problems. Perhaps we should remind ourselves of the African proverb ‘on your own you can certainly travel faster, but if you travel together you will go further’.