During the 2018 Brain Awareness Week (BAW), IBRO is featuring stories from our Global Advocacy Initiative seed grant awardees who have made important impacts in their local communities. Every region of the world has its specific challenges when it comes to raising awareness about the brain, ranging from no awareness at all to competing priorities in policymaking circles. Our seed grant awardees have identified and addressed these challenges by organizing culturally sensitive and socially relevant activities that highlight specific brain issues directly affecting their local communities.
Brain Awareness Impact Story - Somaliland
A Healthy Brain for a Healthy Nation and its Development
Somaliland does not have a long and rich history of brain research. It faces major challenges that make it difficult to advance in this area. A lack of baseline data in brain research, negative attitudes of people about brain-related disorders, poor scientific infrastructure and education, poverty, regional political insecurity and a shortage of funding are all factors that contribute to a restrictive R&D environment.
Global advocacy seed grant awardee, Temesgen Sidamo Summoro, worked with Edna Adan Hospital in Hargeisa, Somaliland, to tackle some of these challenges by organizing a 3-day conference, “A Healthy Brain for a Healthy Nation and its Development,” from 13-15 February 2017. The conference was opened by her Excellency, Dr. Edna Adan Ismail, former Foreign Minister of the Somaliland Republic and founder of the Edna Adan University and Hospital.
There were three main components to the conference: Scientific exchange, public awareness and local community outreach. The scientific portion of the conference brought together local scientists in the area and provided a forum for research exchange and networking. Four papers on different brain-related topics were presented by scientists from universities in Somaliland, senior academicians from higher institutions and health professionals from hospitals and medical centres: Neurologic outcomes of patients operated for depressed skull fracture; hydrocephalus in Somaliland; introduction to perinatal mental health services for antenatal and maternity health settings in Borama, Somaliland; and CT-scan finding patterns of head injury patients in Hayat Diagnostic Center, Hargeisa, Somaliland.
The second day offered open lectures targeted to medical, pharmacy, health science students and the public. They were open and free of charge. The topics included hydrocephalus, mental health in low and middle income countries, and the neurobiology of addiction. On the third and last day, presentations and discussions were directed towards community and religious leaders who were asked to participate in a panel discussion on "Psychotic disorders, traditional and religious perspectives towards patients in Somaliland.” It was conducted in the Somali language in order to reach out to local community leadership and involve them in the discussion of brain-related topics. It was also broadcasted on BulshoTV, a private mass media company in Somaliland. Other parts of the conference were featured on other tv networks, radio, YouTube and Facebook.
This conference benefited academicians, students, and community and religious leaders who were the immediate target audiences of the project. Although it will take time to evaluate the full impact of the conference, it was received very positively by the participants and those who came as audience members. There was an active participation by all stakeholder groups in attendance and the organizers did improve brain awareness through their activities and discussions. Academicians and health professionals were inspired by the conference and its featured topics, indicating that they would like to be involved in different brain-related events and research in the future. Also, the need to incorporate a neuroscience course and program for medical and health science students was addressed and it was agreed that future discussions should be organized to make this dream a reality. Finally, representatives from the Ministry of Education and Health were convinced that there should be more policy discussions about providing better care and increasing public support for brain research.
About the Global Advocacy Initiative: The Global Advocacy Initiative was established in 2013 by IBRO and founding partners Society for Neuroscience (SfN), The Dana Foundation, Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS), International Society for Neurochemistry (ISN), Japan Neuroscience Society (JNS) and the Australasian Neuroscience Society (ANS). Its objective is to facilitate the development of culturally relevant educational and motivational activities that increase awareness and support for brain research around the world.
About the Brain Awareness Week (BAW): To learn more about BAW and find an event near you, please visit the Dana Foundation website.