High rates of motor neuron disease – In the News

Researchers have called for better treatment and prevention of neurological diseases after new analysis says they are a leading cause of disability. 

The release of the Global Burden of Disease analysis coincided with the Global Brain Disease Summit hosted by Auckland University of Technology which gathered New Zealand and international researchers to discuss important health issues and burdens of neurological disorders.

Minister of Health Dr David Clark, who opened the summit in Auckland on Tuesday, said this study was important for health and wellbeing at global, regional, national levels. Among the findings, the studies suggested New Zealand has one of the highest rates of motor neuron disease.

“As such it is a valuable resource for health planning and care and is often used to inform strategic planning, priority setting, and also to help monitor progress along the way.” Mr Clark told the NZ Herald.

Carl Sunderland, General Manager of Motor Neuron Disease New Zealand, told Newstalk ZB’s Kate Hawkesby that despite the high rates of the disease in New Zealand there still is no explanation for why so many New Zealanders are dying of motor neuron disease.

“There’s no conclusive evidence of why. There could be a variety of reasons but it is quite alarming that we do have such a high rate,” Sunderland said.
 “The early diagnosis of the disease is incredibly important, but Kiwis face extremely long waiting lists to see specialists.”

Professor Valery Feigin, director of the National Institute for Stroke and Applied Neurosciences at AUT and co-chair of the GBD’s neurology section, told Newshub“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”.

Feigin told New Zealand Doctor: “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.”

The executive director of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, Ian Powell, told the NZ Herald that this issue in New Zealand is exasperated by a shortage in staff and equipment, “Not only in terms of neurologists but also hospital beds, outpatient rehabilitation services and support systems.”

The research was covered by local media, including:

Newshub: New Zealand has world’s highest death rate from motor neuron disease – study
NZHerald: Shocking: New Zealand death rate for motor neuron disease five times global average
New Zealand Doctor: NZ has highest mortality rate from motor neuron disease
NewstalkZB: No explanation for NZ’s motor neurone disease mortality rate
Health Central: New Zealand death rate for motor neuron disease five times global average