GBHI reaches milestone, sets sights on continued impact for brain health

On June 24, the Global Brain Health Institute reached a significant milestone when Atlantic Philanthropies finalised a gift to UC San Francisco (UCSF) and Trinity College Dublin to continue to address the global dementia epidemic.

“Over the past four years, GBHI has built the foundation for a global network of leaders to address the social and physical determinants of brain health,” said Christopher G. Oechsli, president and CEO of The Atlantic Philanthropies. “This groundbreaking community is actively changing the practices, narratives and policies that will improve the quality of our lives.”

This commitment of $107 million — the fulfillment of the largest program grant Atlantic has ever made, totaling $179 million — reflects the ambitions of Atlantic and its founder, Charles “Chuck” Feeney, to advance fairer, healthier, and more inclusive societies.

L to R: Chris Oechsli, President CEO of The Atlantic Philanthropies, Jennifer Arnett, Vice President and Chancellor Sam Hawgood sign the final payment.

“We are deeply grateful and humbled by the continued commitment of Atlantic Philanthropies to address dementia, one of the most urgent social and healthcare challenges of our lifetime,” said Professor Emeritus Ian Robertson, PhD, co-director of GBHI who leads the initiative with Bruce Miller, MD, a neurologist at UCSF. “This program is an attempt to train new leaders to bring proven ideas to the public more rapidly.”

The number of people with dementia worldwide—about 48 million—is expected to triple by 2050. The prevalence is increasing in part due to the aging population, but also because of global health disparities, including high rates of poverty and limited access to health care.

Established in 2015, GBHI offers a 12-month fellowship, the Atlantic Fellows for Equity in Brain Health, at UCSF and Trinity College Dublin, respectively. Over fifteen years, the program aims to train 600 leaders from around the world to reduce the scale and impact of dementia through research, clinical care, policy, and art.

This fall, the Atlantic Fellows program will welcome its fourth cohort, expanding its network of fellows to 119 from 36 countries, including a third from South America. Upon completing the program, fellows return to their home countries with professional and financial support to implement the dementia-focused programs, policies and practices they develop during their training with GBHI.

For instance, Eleonore Bayen, MD, PhD, a French physician, created a popular public health campaign,MyBrainRobbie, centered on short videos to teach children brain-healthy behaviors.Jorge Llibre Guerra,MD, a neurologist from Cuba, has developed research suggesting that ethnic disparities in dementia risk can be explained by social and economic differences, raising important policy implications he is working to address in Cuba.

“We are confident that by continuing to train the next generation of leaders, building collaborations and innovations, and sharing our work, we will deliver change,” said ProfessorBrian Lawlor, MD, deputy director of GBHI.

About The Atlantic Philanthropies

The Atlantic Philanthropies are dedicated to advancing opportunity, equity and human dignity. Established in 1982, when Chuck Feeney quietly committed virtually all of his assets to the foundation, Atlantic has since made grants approaching $8 billion. In keeping with Mr. Feeney’s “Giving While Living,” big-bet philosophy, Atlantic invests in systemic change to accelerate improvements in the lives of disadvantaged and vulnerable people. The foundation, which has operated in Australia, Bermuda, Cuba, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, South Africa, the United States and Vietnam, completed all grant making in 2016 and concluded operations shortly afterward.