Building Brain Health Capital 

Black female hand hold human brain on blue background
Mental health is finally getting some of the attention it deserves, fueled by employee demand and the realities of rising rates of mental illness, addiction, and burnout. But employers would be missing an important opportunity if the only approach to addressing these challenges is focused on mitigating health impacts and offering support as a recruitment tool. A more comprehensive approach to brain health can result in greater impact.

In this new technological knowledge economy where human capital is the key driver, our brains are the command center. The World Economic Forum identified analytical thinking, creative thinking, resilience, flexibility, and agility, motivation and self-awareness, and curiosity and lifelong learning as the top five most important skills for workers today. These are all skills centered in the brain. 

Far more than mitigating illness, brain health refers to the overall well-being and optimal functioning of the brain allowing a person to realize their full potential over the life course. Optimal functioning of the brain is impacted by both our cognitive, spiritual, and physical wellbeing.  

This more comprehensive, positive approach to brain health can help to address mental and physical health challenges. It also provides room for diversity and neurodiversity, removes stigma, and promotes employee engagement and flourishing. It gives employer wellness/wellbeing programs a far greater calling.   

We know that physical health, lifestyle choices, and our environment are linked to brain health. For example, the Lancet Commission on Dementia found that a third of dementia cases could be prevented through addressing health and lifestyle factors such as physical activity, depression, education, smoking, diabetes, hypertension, hearing loss, and social isolation. Do your employees know this? Does your CEO? 

The evidence that improved employee health and wellbeing can reduce health costs and improve productivity is well established. Yet still today, disparate, underutilized wellness programs overlook an indispensable asset: our brains. Neuroscience offers us tools to support behavior change, and the reasons why doing so is important. 

Research shows that individuals who are more aware of the connections between their physical health and their cognitive performance, memory and resilience are more likely to make lifestyle changes that improve their health.i  Research also provides a compelling case for why a CEO should cultivate workplace culture, supports, and policies that make building brain health a top priority, indeed an essential priority, of the organization. 

Brain health is not a “nice-to-have” benefit or a component of a company social impact initiative. It should not be centered in the corporate foundation or buried in human resources department. Brain health should be viewed and supported as a critical asset – brain health capital – that can not only build cognitive skills and wellbeing, but also generate greater economic competitiveness, empowerment, and organizational resilience. 

Learn more about what businesses are doing to support brain health at https://businessforbrainhealth.org/  

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