July 23 - 29, 2007

Up to 1 billion people, nearly one in six of the world's population, suffer from neurological disorders, with some 6.8 million dying of the maladies each year.

This was disclosed by leading Psychiatrist and Zonal representative of World Psychiatry Association (WPA), Mr. Haroon Rashid Chaudhry while talking to PAGE. According to him, the disorders including Alzheimer and Parkinson disease, strokes, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, migraine, brain injuries and neuroinfections are on rise worldwide.

According to a study conducted by the UN World Health Organization (WHO)- Neurological disorders: Public health challenges shows that people in all countries, irrespective of age, sex, education or income are affected, that the economic cost of such diseases in Europe reached some 139 billion in 2004, and that access to appropriate care is lacking in many parts of the world.

He was of the view that health systems need to be strengthened to deliver better care for people with neurological disorders. He recommended that neurological care be integrated into primary health care since for many people, primary care is the only access to medical treatment that they have and doctors can use low-technology interventions. Community-based rehabilitation is also an option.

In order to reduce the impact of neurological disorders, innovative approaches involving strong partnerships must be put in place," he argued. As the global population ages, the impact of neurological disorders will be felt both in developed and developing countries, reaching a significant proportion in countries with a growing percentage of the population over 65 years.

The disorders include diseases of the central and peripheral nervous system, such as brain, spinal cord, cranial nerves, the autonomic nervous system, neuromuscular junction and muscles. He said that global statistics show that 50 million people suffer from epilepsy, 62 million from cerebrovascular disease, 326 million from migraine, and 24 million from Alzheimer disease and other dementia. It may be mentioned that the UN health agency has asked the countries to provide a network of community health services to alleviate the hardships faced by the nearly 54 million people around the world suffering from mental disorders as well as those caring for them.

"Community mental health services are also likely to have less possibilities for neglect and violations of human rights, which are too often encountered in mental hospitals," Prof Haroon added. According to WHO, mental disorders are increasingly prevalent in developing countries, the consequence of persistent poverty-driven conditions, the demographic transition, conflicts in fragile States and natural disasters. At the same time, more than 50 per cent of developing countries do not provide any care for persons with mental disorders in the community. Prof Dr Haroon Rashid Chaudhry, who is also Head Department of Psychiatry Fatima Jinnah Medical College (FJMC) said that depression is on rise worldwide due to pressures in life. He stated that most of the developing countries do not provide any care for persons with mental disorders in the community. There is an urgent need to prepare a comprehensive plan to tackle the burden of mental illness rampant worldwide, he added.