A newly commissioned white paper on the burden of cost of brain disorders in Australia reports the staggering economic burden associated with neurological, mental health and substance use disorders is in excess of $74 billion. In Australia, the burden of these brain disorders accounted for 20.5 per cent of the burden of disease, nearly twice the global figure of 11.1 per cent illustrating the scale of the health care challenge. Substance abuse recorded the highest growth rate between 2010 and 2017 growing by 24.7 per cent, followed by neurological disorders at 15.6 per cent and mental health disorders by 8.6 per cent.
The report commissioned by Mindgardens Neuroscience Network (Mindgardens), identifies the health cost in disability-adjusted life years of brain disorders has increased by 13.5 per cent in Australia since 2010.
Mindgardens, based in Sydney, Australia is an innovative organisation dedicated to clinical excellence, research and education in neurological, mental health and substance use disorders. Established in 2018, it brings together the strengths of four founding partner organisations: Black Dog Institute, Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA), South Eastern Sydney Local Health District (SESLHD) and UNSW Sydney (UNSW) to form the largest collaboration of scientists and clinicians in brain disorders in the southern hemisphere.
The founding partners sought to determine the current burden of disease in Australia and the associated costs that arise from the spectrum of brain disorders – neurological, mental health and substance use disorders in order to set a course for change in neuroscience models of care.
Says Professor Helen Christensen AO, Interim Co-CEO of Mindgardens, “we commissioned KPMG to prepare a white paper to review the data and provide us with a clear picture of the size and scale of brain disorders in Australia. The white paper reveals the costs are staggering. Mental health disorders and suicide cost the nation over $33 billion each year, neurological disorders cost over $31 billion and substance use disorders almost $10 billion”.
The white paper titled ‘Review of the burden of disease for neurological, mental health and substance use disorders in Australia‘, identifies the largest burden of disease is exhibited by opioid use disorders, major depressive and anxiety disorders, stroke and Alzheimer’s/dementia disorders. Relative to cancer and cardiovascular disease, these disorders do not receive overall research investment commensurate with the burden they impose on the community.
Says Professor Peter Schofield AO, Interim Co-CEO Mindgardens, “our national research agenda should align to better incorporate and prioritise these disorders and build the specific research capability to address them into the future. Our white paper also investigates the potential return on investment for already validated health interventions and indicates a number which, if adopted, would cost-effectively improve health outcomes”.
“These include online mental health programs which are highly effective in treating depression and anxiety. However, the infrastructure to put these treatments into action is weak so we need to establish an e-mental health infrastructure and shared industry/health models that could then be used to expand these cost-effective health interventions to treat and prevent these and other brain disorders,” says Professor Schofield.
Mindgardens plans to establish a new healthcare architecture using “Apex Clinics” that examine, simultaneously, the whole health of the person from physical health, neurological, mental health and substance use. This will encourage and support collaborative care approaches to ensure quality healthcare outcomes.
“The approach to care must aim to review brain disorders in totality not in isolation as many sit as comorbid disorders. Managing an individual’s needs requires a helicopter view, rather than the traditional ‘siloed’ service provision”, says Professor Christensen.
“The release of this white paper combined with other recent reports (e.g. Investing to Save1) highlights how the national research agenda should be providing an evidence base from which new and improved interventions can be adopted,” says Professor Schofield.