By Wolfgang Grisold, Wasay Mohammad
Correspondance published in The Lancet Neurology - DOI:

The mission of the World Federation of Neurology (WFN) is to foster brain health worldwide. Our overarching aim is to promote neurological practice for the sake of patients with neurological disease. The findings from the 2015 Global Burden of Disease study1 have shown the enormous contribution of neurological diseases to disability-adjusted life-years, years of life lost, and years lived with disability. Furthermore, the WHO Atlas of Country Resources for Neurological Disorders2 shows that huge treatment gaps exist for these diseases worldwide.

Advocacy encompasses any activity that gives a voice to patients or creates awareness of relevant issues. We believe that advocacy can be a valuable instrument for neurological patients, their carers, and society. Because of the changing autonomy of patients and their relationship with physicians, advocacy is likely to increase.

The WFN engages in advocacy at several levels, particularly at the population level, which involves successful engagement in the ICD 11 (specifically in promoting stroke as a neurological disease), increasing awareness of non-communicable diseases in low-income countries, and participating in and making position statements in the WHO regional organisations.

Training courses organised by the WFN in collaboration with the European Academy of Neurology3 or the American Academy of Neurology promote neurology education locally in Africa and advocate for neurological practice. WFN also promotes departmental visits of trainees from low-income countries to Europe and Canada, and offer 1-year fellowships or full training in neurology at the WFN teaching centres in Africa,4 the Americas, and in Asia. World Brain Day (July 22, annually)5 is a WFN-organised engagement event for awareness and advocacy of our field. Previous themes have included stroke, brain health in the ageing population, and epilepsy. The theme for 2018 will be “clean air for brain health”, and will raise awareness of the effects of pollution and the environment on brain health.

Like in ethics and the humanities, we think that advocacy needs to be an integral part of the medical curriculum. Many neurologists and trainees are still unaware of advocacy. There is a need for academic research into advocacy to understand its effects. We are preparing a textbook of neurology advocacy (to be published in 2018), an international journal of health advocacy (2019), and an online advocacy training course (2019).

Notably, educational sessions on advocacy at the World Congress of Neurology, the biennial conference organised by the WFN (in collaboration with the American Academy of Neurology), are not restricted to a scientific curriculum but also aim to create awareness on advocacy as an important aspect of the professional activity of any neurologist. The Advocacy Palatucci Workshops are now a regular feature of the WCN, enabling participants to acquire advocacy skills and learn about advocacy resources. We would like to invite young neurologists to attend the World Congress of Neurology workshops in 2019.



  1. GBD 2015 Neurological Disorders Collaborator Group. Global, regional, and national burden of neurological disorders during 1990–2015: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015. Lancet Neurol. 2017; 16: 877–897
  2. WHO. Atlas: country resources for neurological disorders. (second edition)
    Date: 2017 (accessed Jan 29, 2018)
  3. European Academy of Neurology. Guidelines for regional teaching courses in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).
    January, 2016 (accessed Jan 29, 2018)
  4. Grisold, W and Lewis, SL. Teaching centers of the World Federation of Neurology—a concept to provide training resources from within. J Neurol Sci. 2017; 379: 25–28
  5. Wasay, M, Grisold, W, Carroll, W, and Shakir, R. World Brain Day 2016: celebrating brain health in an ageing population. Lancet Neurol. 2016; 15: 1008