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WHO Report
Millions Have Neurological Disorders Worldwide

One billion people around the world are affected by neurological disorders, including 50 million who have epilepsy and 24 million with Alzheimer disease and other dementias, and an estimated 6.8 million die each year from these disorders. These and other statistics are detailed in “Neurological Disorders: Public Health Challenges,” a new report from the World Health Organization (WHO).

The report is primarily aimed at politicians and health planners to call attention to the global burden of neurological disease, Johan A. Aarli, MD, president of the World Federation of Neurology (WFN), told Neurology Today. Dr. Aarli, one of the authors, said: “We are working for a closer collaboration between WFN and WHO to improve human health worldwide by promoting better prevention and care of neurological disease.”

The take-home message for neurologists in the US is that they can play an important role in helping to raise public awareness of the global burden of neurological disease, said Dr. Aarli and Theodore Munsat, MD, chair of the WFN education committee. They can do so by emphasizing the need for better educational programs and community-based rehabilitation programs.

They also urged US neurologists to help their colleagues working in regions with limited resources, by supporting organizations such as the nonprofit WFN, according to Dr. Munsat. “The AAN has been most generous in providing educational material to the WFN for developing countries,” he said.

To address the needs of a growing number of people aged 65 in the US and abroad, more neurologists experienced in diseases of the geriatric community will need to be trained, Dr. Munsat told Neurology Today. “Worldwide stroke ranks second to ischemic heart disease as a cause of death and is a leading cause of serious disability,” said Dr. Aarli. “Only a massive intervention in lifestyle modification may improve the prognosis for ischemic stroke.”