World Federation of Neurology Commends World Health Organization for Raising the Profile of Neurological Disorders with New Classification Recognizing Their Impact on Global Health  

At World Congress of Neurology 2021, WFN President Reports on Pending WHO Actions, Addressing “Looming Burden of Neurological Diseases” Facing the World


October 7, 2021 — Today, the leader of the World Federation of Neurology (WFN) is commending the World Health Organization while expressing hope that the WHO will raise the profile of neurological disorders as it considers the Intersectoral Global Action Plan on Epilepsy and Other Neurological Disorders (IGAP). 

Reporting to members of the World Congress of Neurology (WCN) 2021, meeting remotely October 3 to 7, WFN President Prof. William Carroll, AM, MB BS, MD, FRACP, FRCP(E), discussed the origins, goals and progress of IGAP in his Presidential plenary address. For the first time in its history, the World Health Organization (WHO) is recognizing the need to focus on neurological diseases and disorders around the world, especially in under-resourced countries. The action plan seeks to address the challenges and gaps in providing care and services for people with epilepsy and other neurological disorders that exist worldwide and ensure a comprehensive, coordinated response across sectors. 

Born from a resolution passed by the World Health Assembly, a body within the WHO, in November 2019, IGAP represents one of the first times WHO has officially gone on record recognizing neurological disorders and their burden on the world. Previously, the WHO grouped these diseases under the category of mental health. By moving forward on IGAP, the WHO is taking a formal stance that neurological diseases are important issues that must be addressed outside of mental health.

Driving this change is recent data detailing the true global burden of neurological diseases, sourced primarily from the Global Burden of Disease Study, conducted by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). The study reports on the degree, prevalence and cost of all diseases and especially neurological ones. Prof. Carroll cited data that found non-communicable neurological diseases (nNCDs) are the leading cause of disability and the second leading cause of death globally. In the United States, nNCDs affect 14% of the population, a number that is expected to triple by 2050.

“IGAP is going to be a global means by which to address the looming burden of neurological diseases. By taking a more holistic and balanced approach to these diseases in IGAP, we hope the WHO and its member states will implement our recommendations, which can lead to improvements in the care and prevention of all neurological diseases across the board, especially non-communicable ones,” said Prof. Carroll. 

IGAP is on the path to being finalized by May 2022. There is a building excitement about the evolution of IGAP and what it means for neurological disorders. 

“Most importantly, IGAP will raise the profile of neurological disorders. Once people are thinking and talking about them, organization and advocacy for higher quality care and preventive measures will follow. It’s one of the reasons why the WFN launched our Brain Health Initiative—to educate the public on the importance of brain health. And the World Congress of Neurology is a momentous occasion and ideal platform to demonstrate this,” added Prof. Carroll.

IGAP seeks to offer a solution to the world’s predominant disease burden—neurological diseases. It will raise the priority of these conditions within a national budget debate. Low income countries that are unable to catch up financially to higher income countries lack access to quality medical treatments, preventive measures and care. The WFN believes it can counter these issues by raising their priority in the global and national consciousness so that funding is reallocated to where it’s needed most.

“People are living longer and healthier lives in many areas. But neurological diseases, especially non-communicable ones, tend to start early and leave a lot to deal with. They contribute massively to the increasing economic burden of disability worldwide. IGAP couldn’t come at a better time as we prepare to address this burden,” said Prof. Carroll. 

Although IGAP originally started with a focus on epilepsy, it now includes all neurological disorders, including non-communicable ones such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis and stroke as well as diseases outside of nNCDs, including traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries, meningitis, encephalitis, West Nile virus and Zika virus. Prof. Carroll of the WFN and others within the Global Neurology Alliance behind the plan are keen to ensure its language and recommendations are balanced to reflect this. 


About the World Congress of Neurology

The World Federation of Neurology’s World Congress of Neurology brings together leading neuroscientists and public health experts to turn research into action and emphasize the importance of brain health across the globe. The 25th Biennial conference occurred virtually from October 3 to 7, 2021, and was organized in association with the Italian Society of Neurology (SIN). 


About the World Federation of Neurology

The World Federation of Neurology represents 122 neurological member societies around the globe to foster quality neurology and brain health worldwide by promoting neurological education and training with an emphasis on under-resourced areas of the world. WFN supports the spread of research and clinical information in the pursuit of improvements in the field of neurology. With support from member organizations around the globe, WFN unites the world to allow patients greater access to brain health. For more information, please visit the WCN 2021 website at, find our live stream press conferences on Facebook at, on Twitter at or by searching using the tag #WCN2021.


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