National Brain Health Programme: Sense of community has direct effects on the brain
Our society should offer more opportunities for experiencing a sense of community, says a multidisciplinary expert group in charge of the preparation of the national Brain Health Programme. In the future, sense of community and fellow citizenship (kanssalaisuus in Finnish) are an important part of a humanely sustainable society that promotes brain health.
“The term kanssalainen is a blend of the words kansalainen [citizen] and kanssa [together with]. It is a complex and still partly undefined term that is linked to a sense of community and togetherness. It means a person who walks by your side, creating a sense of belonging, which is a basic human need. Experiencing a sense of togetherness and belonging creates psychological safety, which reduces harmful stress and its negative effects on the brain. Feeling a sense of togetherness and belonging has many positive effects on the brain, both direct and indirect. Isolation, on the other hand, has many adverse health effects, and recent research shows that it may increase the risk of a memory disorder. The brain reacts strongly to social exclusion and the risk thereof”, says Kaisa Hartikainen, neurologist and member of the expert group.
Promoting a sense of community and togetherness is one of the key impact objectives of the Brain Health Programme, which is currently under way and coordinated by the Finnish Brain Association. The Brain Health Programme also focuses on improving people’s brain health knowledge and skills in all age groups and communities.
“This is particularly emphasised today when people have access to a wide variety of brain health-related information. It’s important to promote a research-based understanding of brain health and brain diseases among individuals and in workplaces, communities and society as a whole,” Hartikainen says.
In addition to sense of community, Hartikainen mentions the importance of sleep and brain ergonomics.
“Sufficient, refreshing sleep is a resource that supports recovery, emotional regulation, information processing and the ability to cope with various challenges in life. Sleep also has various maintenance, repair and building tasks. Insufficient or low-quality sleep leads to a wide range of health problems and risks, such as proneness to depression, accidents and possibly even memory disorders.”
“The brain is also the most important resource and tool in the modern working life. A lot more thought should be put into the nature and limitations of the functioning of the brain, as well as the balance between work and rest. Brain ergonomics seeks to reduce unnecessary strain on the brain, whether in information processing or emotional functioning of the brain. Good brain ergonomics is important for supporting brain health across age groups, but its importance is emphasised in people of working age who are trying to balance their family and career”, Hartikainen says.
“The brain is our most important organ. Taking care of your brain is an investment in your future, with far-reaching consequences for all of society”, Hartikainen says.
The purpose of the preparation of the national Brain Health Programme is to identify the most effective methods to promote brain health in Finland. The process to prepare the programme is coordinated by the Finnish Brain Association in cooperation with its partners (Itla, Sustainable Brain Health and GEREC). The cornerstones are brain health and a discussion of factors that are important for taking care of brain health in different age groups. The impact objectives of the programme have now been determined, and the drafting of the implementation plan can begin. The programme will be fully complete by the end of the year.