It gives me considerable pleasure to start this entry with some good news. It looks like the wish expressed in the closing paragraph of my last ‘Word from the President’ was granted: With the help of a sustained and combined effort to promote the importance of COVID-19 vaccination and expanded infrastructure at multiple levels (federal, State, communities), the proportion of people fully vaccinated is reaching levels (80-90%) that are the envy of many countries around the world (although with considerable variability between urban and regional/remote areas). As a result, people living in Australia are slowly enjoying renewed freedom. Freedom to travel, freedom to engage in physical, social and sporting activities, and, most importantly, freedom to meet with loved ones, friends and families face to face. For many, it will also be the first opportunity to travel overseas and come back without having to quarantine in over 600 days.
Once again, the importance of direct social and physical contacts is not to be underestimated. As reported by many around the world, social interactions have wide ranging benefits that include mental as well as physical health, improved cognition, improved immune system and lower stress levels. We are, and will remain, social animals in need of social interactions.
Pleasingly, the importance and contributions of social interactions to our general wellbeing is also recognised by clinicians and researchers working in the field of brain impairment. Indeed, reviewing the articles published in the past 12 months in Brain Impairment, the journal of ASSBI, no fewer than 25% of accepted submissions covered a topic related to some of aspects of social functioning, such as caregiver support (Wallace et al., doi:10.1017/BrImp.2021.5) compassion and unmet needs (Hennessy & Sullivan), moral cognition (Lloyd et al., doi:10.1017/BrImp.2021.7), reflection on professional practice (Whiffin & Ellis-Hill, doi:10.1017/BrImp.2021.14), or working memory and emotions (Byom et al., doi:10.1017/BrImp.2021.20), in clinical populations as varied as traumatic brain injury, stroke, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. If you haven’t done so already, I invite you to read these papers which demonstrate the importance of this topic in clinical practice. More broadly, these articles highlight the breadth and quality of studies published in Brain Impairment, which has enjoyed a marked increase in its impact factor (from 0.96 in 2018 to 1.73 in 2020), an increase that is almost twice as large as similar journals and reflecting its quality and increasing standing in the field.
Finally, as we are fast approaching the end of the year and the festive season, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all of you ASSBI members for your continuing support of the society and to the ASSBI committee at large for your ongoing contributions and for helping steer this ship during what has been an interesting time (understatement of the year).
Wishing you all a prosperous and healthy 2022 and looking forward to seeing you all in person in May at the 45th annual ASSBI conference in Perth.
Olivier Piguet, President