About Parkinson's Disease in Sub-Saharan Africa
Contributed by Richard Walker, MD
Past Chair, Task Force on Africa
Data on Parkinson's disease (PD) in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) are limited but it appears that the age-adjusted prevalence may be a little lower than other parts of the world. The likely explanation for this is a lack of diagnosis, and therefore treatment, leading to early fatality. There are few doctors per head of population in SSA, and this is especially true for specialists such as neurologists.
Many people, even healthcare professionals, are unaware of PD and considerable stigma is experienced by patients. Even if patients are diagnosed there is a limited choice of medication and affordable, sustainable, drug treatment is not possible for most. However, against this background, it is possible for patients to be diagnosed and treated, both with therapy and drugs.
After a special symposium at the 13th International Congress of Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders in June 2009 in Paris, the SSA Interest Group was ratified by MDS in January 2010. There have been subsequent meetings of the group at the 14th and 15th International Congresses in 2010 and 2011, respectively.
The Task Force on Africa was ratified in April 2012 and the first committee meeting took place at the 16th International Congress in Dublin in June 2012, with a plan to meet at all future International Congresses. Committee meetings are also conducted by phone conferences.
Other Educational Programming
MDS has provided support for meetings in Mali (2009), South Africa (2010), Tanzania (2012) and Ghana (2013) and has supported the attendance of three young neurologists from SSA at the Movement Disorders Summer School in Naples, Italy in July 2011, five at the Summer School in Paris in July 2012 and four to attend the Summer School in London in 2013. Additionally, the Task Force has supported two African participants to attend the 2013 MDS Allied Health Professional Summer School in Nijmegen, Netherlands, with additional programming following the course.
The Task Force is currently organizing educational programming in South Africa and Ethiopia. These courses will be jointly funded by MDS and The SAFRA Foundation. Read about past education programming on the Task Force's Education webpage.
Many people in the world with PD are never diagnosed or treated and this is particularly true for the vast majority of Africa. However, diagnosis, along with affordable and sustainable treatment, of PD in Africa should be possible and is the main aim of the Task Force. For this to be achieved we need to address training, raising awareness, and advocacy for drug treatment. We look forward to furthering the mission of MDS through this Task Force.