The World Neurology Foundation: Supporting Palatucci Advocacy Efforts in Low-Resource Regions

March 17, 2008


By Michael F. Finkel MD, FAAN
Author Disclosure

The Palatucci Advocacy Leadership Forum (PALF) includes international neurologists as Fellows, and these individuals have offered a natural partnership with the AAN and the London-headquartered World Federation of Neurology and its Committees. The World Neurology Foundation currently is working to support several projects that have been initiated by PALF alumni.

Public rally for awareness about stroke in Madhya Pradesh, India

Background: The Burden of Neurological Disease

Neurological disorders present a profound public health problem worldwide, accounting for a significant proportion of the disease burden in developing countries. World Health Organization data indicate that neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders currently account for 28% of all life years lived with a disability, and this percentage is projected to rise significantly by the year 2020. A recent World Federation of Neurology Task Force on Neurological Services supported these data, indicating further that:

  • The highest incidence and prevalence of brain disorders worldwide are in low-resource countries, where the incidence of neurologists is also lowest.
  • While life expectancy is rising in developing nations, the percentage of years spent free of neurologic disability is actually decreasing.
  • Most nervous system disorders associated with the highest rates of disability are actually preventable through affordable means.

Despite the dramatic increase in neurological knowledge, therapy, and technology in the past 50 years, these advances have had little benefit for the people of low-resource countries. In an effort to help address this inequity, the World Neurology Foundation was established in 1999 in the United States as a nonprofit organization with the mission to support cost-effective, well developed neurology projects in areas of need.

Educational session, Epilepsy Advocacy Project, Chennai, India

Palatucci Fellow project leaders involved include:

Apoorva Pauranik, MD, Madhya Pradesh, India. To promote and improve neurology patient care in India, Pauranik has proposed:

  • Development and maintenance of a comprehensive website in Hindi for public awareness of neurological diseases and patient interaction with neurologists
  • A long-term, sustainable program for public and patient education in Hindi, through publication and saturation-level dissemination of a large variety of pamphlets, brochures, posters, booklets, and books dedicated to every neurological ailment
  • The establishment of a network of patient support groups for various neurological diseases in a number of cities in India, with additional periodic meetings of these groups (Neuro-sangam)
  • An annual state-level neurology certificate course (one week) for non-neurologists (general practitioners)

Lakshmi Ranganathan, MD, Chennai, India. Dr. Ranganathan is currently involved with a program, the Epilepsy Advocacy Project, that seeks to empower women who have epilepsy. If a woman in Chennai develops epilepsy after marriage, her condition is considered grounds for divorce. Divorced women are left to support themselves, and employers are often not willing to hire these women. Dr. Ranganathan's project has a two-pronged approach:

  • To educate the government so that divorce laws related to epilepsy can be changed
  • To teach trades to the affected women, enabling to become self-sufficient

Mohammad Wasay, MD,The Aga Khan University, Karachi. Dr. Wasay, working in Pakistan's largest city (population 15 million), has developed a plan to screen a representative sample from Karachi for the identification of the burden of neurological diseases on the population. Building on his success in convincing the government of Pakistan to vaccinate against tetanus, Dr. Wasay wants to bring the common neurological diseases into the range of vision of the Ministry of Health. This data will be used to advocate for large health budgets for the care of neurological diseases.

Dr. Pauranik demonstrates diagnostic techniques as part of the Annual Neurology Quiz Competition for Medical Students in Madhya Pradesh

Project Development: Strategies for Success

In addition to the projects mentioned above, the World Neurology Foundation is currently developing a basic "Tool Kit" of neurology equipment that can be distributed through a sub-Saharan African training center and to other regions in need. The Foundation is also considering a program that would allow skilled neurologists the opportunity to travel to and provide needed services in low-resource regions.

Under the leadership of the Board of Directors and Advisory Council, the Foundation's goal is for all supported projects to be self-sustaining. This will allow the Foundation to impact the greatest number of individuals possible who are currently lacking quality neurological care.

The Foundation works with donors to find support both in the home country and abroad, and actively seeks key partnerships with other organizations, foundations, and businesses that have been started by immigrants to the US and Canada. In the case of the projects in India and Pakistan, the Foundation is working closely with the Association of Indian Neurologists in America and the Pakistan International Neuroscience Society to identify donors both within the country as well as abroad.

Be sure to visit the Advocacy home page for more international neurological projects.

Author Disclosure

Author has nothing to disclose.