Brain Disorders

By Jill Moss

This is the VOA Special English DEVELOPMENT REPORT.

An international committee of doctors says that the number of cases of brain diseases in developing countries is rising. The doctors were reporting the information for the United States National Academy of Sciences.

They say that brain diseases affect at least two-hundred-fifty-million people in the developing world. These diseases include strokes, epilepsy and mental sicknesses such as schizophrenia and depression. They also include abnormal development of the nervous system, which causes mental slowness and cerebral palsy.

Richard Johnson of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland was one of the leaders of the committee. He says poor countries usually do not have the resources to deal with brain diseases. This is because most developing countries are already struggling with food problems, the spread of infectious diseases and child health issues.

Srinivasa Murthy also served on the committee. She works for the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences in India. She criticized the lack of international interest in brain diseases. For example, Doctor Murthy says fifty percent of all countries have no policies about brain diseases. In addition, she says health care centers in forty percent of the world's countries do not offer common drugs to treat brain diseases.

Doctor Murthy says there are two reasons for this. One is a lack of money. The other is a lack of human resources. For example, a recent study shows most developing countries do not have enough doctors who treat mental sicknesses. Another barrier to action against brain diseases is the unfair way in which the public acts toward victims. Many victims of brain diseases are treated poorly.

The committee says there are effective and low cost medical treatments for these diseases. Yet these treatments are not often provided in developing countries. The committee says more treatments should be offered to poor countries.

It says health care systems in developing countries should provide mental health services for their people. The committee says efforts should be made to increase public understanding of brain diseases.

Finally, the committee says national research programs should be established to study brain diseases.

This VOA Special English DEVELOPMENT REPORT was written by Jill Moss.