During the 2018 Brain Awareness Week (BAW), IBRO is featuring stories from our Global Advocacy Initiative seed grant awardees who have made important impacts in their local communities. Every region of the world has its specific challenges when it comes to raising awareness about the brain, ranging from no awareness at all to competing priorities in policymaking circles. Our seed grant awardees have identified and addressed these challenges by organizing culturally sensitive and socially relevant activities that highlight specific brain issues directly affecting their local communities.
Brain Awareness Impact Story - Egypt
The First Arab African Teleneurology Conference: A Treat and Teach Initiative
Arab and African countries face a number of brain awareness challenges. Most critically, these include a severe lack of trained neuroscientists and neurologists, limited access to their expertise and widespread ignorance about the brain, its disorders and treatments. Dr. Tamer Emara, 2016 Global Advocacy Initiative seed grant awardee from Ain Shams University (Cairo, Egypt), explained, "It is estimated only 11 countries in Africa have more than 10 neurologists per country, five countries in Africa have only 5-10 neurologists per country, and 23 countries in Africa have one to four neurologists per country. Furthermore, despite accounting for 23% of the world's population (approximately 1.5 billion people), about 60% of these countries do not have neurology training programs and at least 80% of this population does not have adequate neurology healthcare coverage."
In Egypt, Dr. Emara noted that the situation is slowly improving, "The number of trained neurologists is steadily growing and specialized neurology services for stroke, epilepsy, headache, neurorehabilitation and neuromuscular disorders, among others, are beginning to increase. These services can be found in Cairo and to a lesser extent in Alexandria and Assiut. However, outside of these centers, the mere presence of a trained neurologist is an exception. It is a common scenario to find a community of 1 million to 3 million inhabitants who are served by one to two neurology consultants, who may be living in another place and shuttling back and forth. The brain drain happens from these areas to Cairo, in addition to other countries."
Dr. Emara began addressing this situation by using his seed grant award to help organize the First Arab African Teleneurology Conference: A Treat and Teach Initiative, which was held at the Arab League office in Cairo, under the patronage of Professor Hussein Eissa, President of Ain Shams University, from 19-21 January 2016. It brought together 247 participants from 12 Arab and African countries and 13 universities. It was endorsed and supported by IBRO and its Global Advocacy Initiative partners (the Society for Neuroscience (SfN), Federation for European Neuroscience Societies (FENS), the Dana Foundation, International Society for Neurochemistry, Japan Neuroscience Society and the Australasian Neuroscience Society) as well as the World Stroke Organization (WSO). In addition, representatives of the Egyptian government, the League of Arab States, the World Health Organization, the American Telemedicine Association and national, regional and international experts all shared in productive and lively discussions.
Most importantly, the Treat and Teach Initiative was launched during the conference and emphasized the immediate need for increased brain awareness, access and training for the entire Arab/African region. It was also stressed that this would be best served with multi-scale collaboration and informed support from practitioners, researchers, patients and decision-makers. The aim of the initiative is to provide a long-term and unique blend of onsite and online e-learning/telemedicine solutions that brings practice and theory together and facilitates increased understanding, training and dissemination of information, especially in less-served areas.
The conference was the first of its kind at the regional level to discuss the challenges of neurology education and practice in Arab and African countries. It also presented the novel Treat and Teach Initiative that encouraged the use of modern communication technologies to facilitate networking between regional and international centres of excellence on one side and scholars and patients on the other. Organizers tried to complement and reinforce current efforts to improve neurology education and practice across Egypt, the Arab world and Africa. Educational resources and onsite medical services were combined online to offer greater access to information and training.
Since the first conference, several treat and teach modules have been conducted online and a "Second Arab African Telemedicine Conference: Towards Equitable Healthcare" has been organized. It took place recently in Cairo from 12-13 March 2018. These continuing efforts will increase research and clinical capacity in the region and raise awareness of brain disorders and treatment. Ultimately, it is hoped that these initial steps will lead to national neuroscience services that can be implemented and managed locally and develop a region-wide teleneurology network that will fulfill the objectives of the Treat and Teach Initiative.
Links (In English)
• Conference website
• Article in World Neurology
About the Global Advocacy Initiative: The Global Advocacy Initiative was established in 2013 by IBRO and founding partners Society for Neuroscience (SfN), The Dana Foundation, Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS), International Society for Neurochemistry (ISN), Japan Neuroscience Society (JNS) and the Australasian Neuroscience Society (ANS). Its objective is to facilitate the development of culturally relevant educational and motivational activities that increase awareness and support for brain research around the world.
About the Brain Awareness Week (BAW): To learn more about BAW and find an event near you, please visit the Dana Foundation website.