The Ghana Neurological Foundation will hold its maiden annual week celebrations in October. In the build-up to the event, Dr. Richard Nyako talks about common neurological issues in Ghana.
Neurological disorders are increasingly prevalent in Sub-Saharan Africa of which Ghana is a part. The factors that are producing this increased burden are many: malnutrition, adverse perinatal conditions (conditions that occur around birth) and malaria are some of them.
Some of the surprising causes also include increased vehicular traffic, demographic transitions, and persistent regional conflicts. A few other causes include the HIV/AIDS, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and meningitis.
Leading neurological disorders include cerebral palsy, mental retardation and other developmental disorders, epilepsy, peripheral neuropathy, stroke, and, increasingly, the nervous system complications of HIV/AIDS, trauma, and alcohol abuse.
The disabling rather than fatal nature of many neurological disorders, the stigma associated with brain disorders, and the enormous difficulty in gathering data involving the transmission and control of disease have resulted in their being underreported and neglected in Sub-Saharan Africa.
This neglect represents an unfortunate contradiction, since neurological (and psychiatric) disorders make up at least 25 percent of the global burden of disease and are responsible for an even greater proportion of persons living with disability.
Cultural and religious issues and beliefs are important in Sub-Saharan Africa.They influence the value placed by society on neurological health, the presentation of symptoms, illness behavior, access to services, pathways through care, the way individuals and families manage illness, the way the community responds to illness, the degree of acceptance and support—and stigma and discrimination—experienced by the person with neurological illness.
Not much is known about the epidemiology (transmission and control), natural history, and clinical pattern, cause of diseases and treatment status of neurological disorders in developing countries. The existing capacity and resources to carry out comprehensive and scientifically sound community assessments are limited.
Many studies have used hospital-based data, even though many of the patients do not have access to or knowledge of the availability of these services.
Further challenges to epidemiological research of neurological disorders in Sub-Saharan Africa are the often unreliable health facility records, the non-inclusion of neurological disorders as separate items in the health management information system, and the dearth of cross-sectional studies.
No disease surveillance system and no censuses, registries, or other administrative data include neurological disorders.
Few of the epidemiological studies of developmental disorders, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, peripheral neuropathies, dementia, or other disorders carried out in Sub-Saharan Africa have been published in peer-reviewed journals (specialized articles).
Similarly, few studies have been carried out that specifically quantify the neurological complications of HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa in spite of the overwhelming burden of the disease in the region.
Dr. Richard Nyako, M. D., ph D. and the Ghana Neurological Foundation are keen to answer your neuro-related questions. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the GNF on Accra-Tema Harbour Road.
Source: Dr Richard Nyako