Abridged from original article by William Carroll, MD, President's Column, published 26 September 2018 in World Neurology Vol 33 No. 4

Prof. William (Bill) Carroll, MD
William Carroll
WFN President

The WFN and WHO share a number of common features and have had useful collaborations in the recent past. Both organizations have a global perspective with regional organizations, parallel mission and goals, and the development of the Atlas of Neurology and the neurology section of the 11th revision of the International Classification of Disease (ICD11) to its present stage.

In addition, the WHO and WFN have collaborated during the Zika virus Public Health Emergency of International Concern of 2016, and the recognition of stroke as a disease of the brain and dementia and on other degenerative neurological disorders being included in the WHO non-communicable disease (NCD) initiative. The two organizations diverge only in the magnitude of the tasks confronting them.

The WFN mission is to foster quality neurology and brain health worldwide; the WHO to improve equity in health, reduce health risks, promote healthy lifestyles and settings, and respond to the underlying determinants of health. Arguably, the two organizations are a natural fit with the potential for beneficial cooperative activity. Both have regional organizations of similar geographic distribution pursuing the same goals as above.

The WHO is the lead organization for all matters in health. Its constituency is the national health organizations representing national governments in most instances. The WHO does interact with many non-governmental organizations termed "non state actors" but it recognizes only one type of formal relationship known as "official relations." The WFN has greatly appreciated having "official relations" status for its partnership in the Atlas of Neurology and with the topic advisory neurology group for ICD-11 extended to 2019. It is the seemingly arbitrary nature of this collaborative effort and that the WHO does not have the same ready access to medical specialties and their global, regional, and national organizations as does the WFN for neurology and others such as the World Heart Foundation, the International Union of Immunological Societies and the International Society of Nephrology, that the WFN believes could be reviewed and probably optimized.

In the neurological sphere, it became apparent some years ago that there might be benefit in a closer alignment between two existing groups of "neurological" organizations. One roughly represented those with more specialty-focused neurological interests such as stroke (World Stroke Organization), epilepsy (International League Against Epilepsy), dementia (Alzheimers Disease International) movement disorders (International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society ) and multiple sclerosis (Multiple Sclerosis International Federation). The other included those with neurologically related interests such as the World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies, the World Federation of Neurorehabilitation, the World Psychiatry Association, the International Child Neurology Association and the International Brain Research Organization.

During recent in-depth discussions with the WHO over ICD11 and the classification of stroke, these two groupings worked more closely than previously to the benefit of the WHO, the WFN, and members of these two groups. Emerging from this experience was a sentiment that had first been expressed during the meeting of representatives attending the WCN 2015 in Santiago; that a more formal unified structure interacting more regularly to share information, acting concertedly and advocating more cohesively could be mutually beneficial. This organization, at present in formal development, would be known as the Global Neurological Alliance (GNA).


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