“According to WHO estimates, neurological disorders are responsible for between 4.5 and 11 percent of all illnesses, depending on whether you are looking at low- or high-income-countries. This is far higher than the number of respiratory ailments, gastrointestinal disorders or cancers, and the burden is set to further increase in the years to come. As a specialty, neurology is moving at high speed, we are increasingly finding preventative, diagnostic, therapeutic and rehabilitative answers to the growing challenges posed by these diseases. At the same time, in many parts of the world patients still have totally inadequate access to neurological care”, Prof Raad Shakir, President of the World Federation of Neurology (WFN), emphasized at the World Congress of Neurology (WCN 2015). About 3,500 participants are gathered in the Chilean capital Santiago for the world's leading neurology event. “It is therefore an important step that the international community, governmental organizations and political decision makers increasingly recognize the high burden of neurological disease and the importance of neurology.”
Loss or impairment of many years of life – 12 out of 100 deaths caused by neurological diseases
According to WHO estimates, the number of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) lost due to neurological diseases is expected to rise from 95 million worldwide in 2015 to 103 million in 2030. DALYs lost in connection with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia will rise most by around 28 percent. Equivalent years lost due to infectious neurological diseases, on the other hand, are expected to fall by 37 percent.
Neurological diseases are also a major cause of death: According to the WHO, they account for 12 percent of deaths worldwide on average. Low and lower-middle-income countries are the hardest hit. WFN President Shakir: “Of all neurological conditions, stroke and other cerebrovascular disorders are by far the most frequent cause of death, accounting for 85 percent of fatalities.”
High burden of disease moves up on the political agenda
The important impact of neurological diseases on global health is increasingly being discussed in the framework of governmental organizations, in particular the UN and the WHO. “Epidemiological studies have clearly identified the major importance of stroke and dementia, and now more recent documents also emphasize the growing role of neurological diseases affecting brain health in general. Neurological diseases are finally an integral part of the global political agenda of major health issues”, Prof Shakir stressed. Moreover, the WFN President emphasized the importance of care for brain diseases, as the cost of care might drive many economies close to bankruptcy. “This is clear with a view at the pace in which populations are ageing. At present, only in one country, Japan, more than 30 percent of the population are aged older than 60 years. By 2050, there will be many, including Chile, China, Iran, and Thailand. A sobering fact.”