Global study reveals New Zealand has world’s highest mortality rate from motor neuron disease
New data on neurological disorders from the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study shows that New Zealand now has the world’s highest rate of mortality from motor neuron disease, at 2.2 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants – just ahead of Australia and the United Kingdom.
Research is required to determine the contributing factors. Although, it may be linked to genetic predisposition, particularly among Māori and Pacific peoples. In 10 percent of cases, the disease is known to be inherited.
In New Zealand, two people die from motor neuron disease each week. The risk of developing the disease is one in 300 and most will die within 15-20 months of their diagnosis.
More than 800 people are currently living with motor neuron disease in the country.
The GBD is the world’s largest systematic, scientific effort to qualify the magnitude of health loss from more than 300 major diseases, injuries and risk factors – by age, sex and population. With 3,600 collaborators in 145 countries, the study has helped transform healthcare policy. It is coordinated by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.
Professor Valery Feigin is a world-renowned neurologist and Director of the National Institute for Stroke and Applied Neurosciences at Auckland University of Technology (AUT). He also co-chairs the neurology section of the GBD, helping coordinate six expert panels with more than 400 members around the world.
“The GBD identifies trends in health loss. While it doesn’t tell us why New Zealand has the highest mortality from motor neuron disease, it helps set priorities for health research and funding around the globe,” says Professor Feigin.
“We knew that neurological disorders were prevalent, but we didn’t realise how big the problem was or just how fast it was growing. That is why we decided to host the brain summit, because the latest GBD estimates were so surprising to us.”
Today, neurology experts from around the world are gathering for the Global Burden of Disease Brain Summit in Auckland. The one-day event is a collaboration between AUT, the GBD and The Lancet Neurology. It is the first time GBD estimates on neurological disorders have been collectively analysed and discussed by this global community, including a special series of papers in The Lancet Neurology which will be released at the summit.
“Neurological disorders are the leading cause of disability and second cause of death worldwide. And, the problem will only increase, because of the ageing population and population growth,” says Professor Feigin. “Healthcare services are overstretched. In New Zealand, the waiting time for a neurology consultation could be more than a year. We currently have 36 full-time equivalent neurologists, but according to our estimates we need 86 full-time equivalent neurologists.”
“Without global cooperation in the research, treatment and prevention of neurological disorders, we will not see any significant improvement. And, without urgent action, the whole healthcare system could be under threat,” says Professor Feigin.