Mitigating the impact of air pollution on dementia and brain health: setting the policy agenda

Castellani, Brian; Bartington, Suzanne; Wistow, Jonathan; Heckels, Neil; Ellison, Amanda; Van Tongeren, Martie; Arnold, Steve R.; Barbrook-Johnson, Pete; Bicket, Martha; Pope, Francis D.; Russ, Tom C.; Clarke, Charlotte L.; Pirani, Monica; Schwannauer, Matthias; Vieno, Massimo; Turnbull, Rachel; Gilbert, Nigel; Reis, Stefan. 2022 Mitigating the impact of air pollution on dementia and brain health: setting the policy agenda. Environmental Research, 215 (2), 114362. 13, pp.

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Background: Emerging research suggests exposure to high levels of air pollution at critical points in the life-course is detrimental to brain health, including cognitive decline and dementia. Social determinants play a significant role, including socio-economic deprivation, environmental factors and heightened health and social inequalities. Policies have been proposed more generally, but their benefits for brain health have yet to be fully explored. Objective and methods: Over the course of two years, we worked as a consortium of 20+ academics in a participatory and consensus method to develop the first policy agenda for mitigating air pollution's impact on brain health and dementia, including an umbrella review and engaging 11 stakeholder organisations. Results: We identified three policy domains and 14 priority areas. Research and Funding included: (1) embracing a complexities of place approach that (2) highlights vulnerable populations; (3) details the impact of ambient PM2.5 on brain health, including current and historical high-resolution exposure models; (4) emphasises the importance of indoor air pollution; (5) catalogues the multiple pathways to disease for brain health and dementia, including those most at risk; (6) embraces a life course perspective; and (7) radically rethinks funding. Education and Awareness included: (8) making this unrecognised public health issue known; (9) developing educational products; and (10) providing publicly available monitoring and screening tools. Policy Evaluation included: (11) engaging in co-production; (12) conducting complex systems evaluation; (13) attaching brain health to air pollution strategies and, in turn, attaching air pollution to brain health campaigns; and (14) evaluating air quality policies for their brain health benefits. Conclusion: Given the pressing issues of brain health, dementia and air pollution, setting a policy agenda is crucial. Policy needs to be matched by scientific evidence and appropriate guidelines, including bespoke strategies to optimise impact and mitigate unintended consequences. The agenda provided here is the first step toward such a plan.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Atmospheric Chemistry and Effects (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 0013-9351
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: air pollution, brain health, dementia, public policy, social and health inequalities, complex systems theory
NORA Subject Terms: Health
Atmospheric Sciences
Date made live: 03 Oct 2022 11:46 +0 (UTC)

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