GBHI Partners with Housing Agency to Develop Brain Health Training

Dementia is a growing public health crisis. There are approximately 55,000 people living with dementia in Ireland today and this number is expected to increase to 113,000 by 2036. Worldwide, there are around 50 million people living with dementia and this will likely triple by 2050.

Many factors associated with increased dementia risk are modifiable—low education level, high blood pressure, hearing impairment, smoking, obesity, depression, physical inactivity, diabetes, low social contact, excessive alcohol consumption, traumatic brain injury, and air pollution—and many of these risk factors relate to housing security and our built environment. Tackling these risk factors and promoting brain health may prevent or delay the onset of dementia at a population level.

As a not-for-profit housing resource and service provider, Respond Housing Agency, an Approved Housing Body, plays a central role in providing homes and supporting communities around Ireland. They also provide a range of services, including family homeless services, day care services for older people, early childhood care and education, family support, and refugee resettlement services.

At the intersection of brain health and housing, the Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI) is collaborating with Respond to develop a brain health training program. This program aims to create awareness and understanding of the importance of brain health, including how threats to brain health can affect a person’s behavior and interactions, best practices to manage such threats, and guidance to cultivate the brain health of the larger community.

“We want to promote the concept of brain health and housing,” said Brian Lawlor, Deputy Executive Director of GBHI. “And to raise awareness of the importance of a secure home and supported environment to everyone’s brain health and wellbeing.” 

Respond’s work in building sustainable, intergenerational communities makes them well placed to amplify the lessons offered in this brain health training program and to disseminate their learnings locally and globally and through their national and international peer networks.

“This training will help to build understanding of the importance of brain health,” said Niamh Randall, National Spokesperson for Respond. “And to learn best practice approaches and techniques when working to support people to reach their full potential.”

Respond and GBHI’s brain health training program will run from November 2020 to April 2021. It was designed and will be facilitated by Brian Lawlor (Deputy Director of GBHI), Iracema Leroi (Associate Professor of Geriatric Psychiatry), Yaohua Chen (Atlantic Fellow for Equity in Brain Health), Naiara Demnitz (Atlantic Fellow for Equity in Brain Health), Eoin Cotter, (Program Lead of GBHI Learning Experience), and Ronan Breathnach (Executive Officer, Learning Experience). 

The team hopes this program will inform other training initiatives across its global community.

“Housing is much more than a basic need,” said Lawlor. “The right home environment can help grow brain connections and allow people to flourish in their communities.”

About Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI)
The Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI) is a leader in the global community dedicated to protecting the world's aging populations from threats to brain health. GBHI works to reduce the scale and impact of dementia around the world by training and connecting the next generation of leaders in brain health through the Atlantic Fellows for Equity in Brain Health program; by collaborating in expanding preventions and interventions; and by sharing knowledge and engaging in advocacy.

The Atlantic Fellows for Equity in Brain Health program, based at GBHI, provides innovative training, networking and support to emerging leaders who are focused on bringing transformative change to improve brain health and reduce the impact of dementia worldwide. It is one of seven Atlantic Fellows programs to advance fairer, healthier and more inclusive societies.

GBHI is based at the University of California, San Francisco, and Trinity College Dublin. Visit or find us on Twitter @GBHI_Fellows.

About Respond
Respond, a not‐for‐profit housing association, has been working all around Ireland for over 38 years. Their vision is that every family and individual in Ireland will have high‐quality housing as part of a vibrant and caring community. They firmly believe that housing and decent accommodation, in the areas where people want to live, are central to improving people’s lives and enhancing the health and well‐being of society. Approximately 10,378 tenants live in 4,520 homes across the 26 counties that we either own or manage, of these there are 4,250 Respond social tenancies.

They provide emergency accommodation with support for families who are homeless in six Family Homeless Services where our goal is to support families to move into secure homes as quickly as possible leaving homelessness behind. They provide wraparound support in relation to access to housing, mental and physical health services, family or parenting support and a range of other issues. They also continue to work with families once they have moved on to ensure the sustainability of these exits. In addition to housing and related work they also provide Day Care Services for Older People, Early Childhood Care and Education, Family Support and Refugee Resettlement Services.

Adults seated in a circle in conversation