by Vladimir Hachinski
This article was first published in Neurology 2013; 80(24), June 11, 2013.
The Congress theme acknowledges that science and increasingly medicine and neurology are becoming globalised. The best way to manage change is to shape it. It is becoming increasingly clear that brain diseases, particularly stroke and dementia are projected to rise at a rate that could overwhelm our clinics and hospitals. Hence a new emphasis has developed on prevention and the need to work across disciplines beyond our traditional roles. Neurologists are the guardians of the brain and need to take the leading role in advancing new approaches in stemming the tide of neurological diseases.
In recognition of this the World Federation of Neurology has expanded its mission to read “to foster quality neurology and brain health worldwide”. In order to further this agenda it has created the World Brain Alliance (WBA) with a membership of 10 organisations:
Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), European Brain Council (EBC), International Brain Research Organisation (IBRO), International Child Neurology Association (ICNA), International League against Epilepsy (ILAE), World Federation of Neurorehabilitation (WFNR), World Federation of Neurology (WFN), World Federation Neurosurgical Societies (WFNS), World Psychiatry Association (WPA), World Stroke Organisation (WSO).
The ABC of the WBA is Advocacy, Brain year and Collaborations.
2011 was unique in that only for the second time in its history, the United Nations were considering a universal resolution on health, this time on non-communicable diseases, within which most neurological conditions fall.
The author felt it was important that if we were going to have an influence on the United Nations agenda, we should begin by working through the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The author attended a high level Russian Federation/WHO sponsored ministers meeting in Moscow in April of 2011. The high point was the surprise appearance of Vladimir Putin, who after his formal speech stayed to answer questions in a surprisingly candid manner. The author also participated in subsequent meetings in the United Nations, both during consultation with the President of the General Assembly (June 2011) and later at the time of adoption of the resolution on non-communicable diseases in September 2011. The work continues, and we are emphasising the three premises of the WBA:
1) There is no health without brain health;
2) Brain health and health begin with the mother and the child and their education and
3) Our brains are our future
We continue to advance the message where we can including the World Health Assembly in May of 2012 and the Executive of the World Health Organiszation (WHO) earlier this year.
The WFN and the WHO have a close working relationship. Johan Aarli (as Vice President and then later as President) helped the WHO produce documents and books including an atlas of neurological disorders, which has been an important source document for policy makers. Raad Shakir, Secretary General to the WFN, chairs an expert committee on cerebrovascular brain disorders for the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). The subcommittee on vascular diseases is chaired by Bo Norrving and one of its members is the author. For the first time we are able to reclassify stroke from being a cardiovascular disease to being a brain disease. The effort continues to have dementia identified as neurological disorders rather than being considered a “mental disorder”.
The European Brain Council under the leadership of its President Mary Baker (UK) is preparing to launch a brain year in 2014. This is to celebrate the creativity, vitality and essentiality of the brain in all human endeavors. It will be characterised by a number of public activities with participation not only of neuroscientists but of creative individuals who can highlight the need for a healthy brain. Tentatively three of the major communications will be from a neuroscientist, from a creative individual and from an Olympic sports champion, to emphasize that sports are not only physical but also brain sports.
The plan is that 2014 will be the Brain Year in Europe, among its highlights will be the construction of a giant brain that will travel from place to place. 2015 will become the Year of the Brain in the Americas and 2016 the Year of the Brain in Asia.
Vice President Werner Hacke (Germany) is organising a network of subspecialty brain organisations so that we cannot only work together at an international level, but also organise future congresses with the participants of all the relevant subspecialties. The initial organisational meeting took place at the World Congress in Marrakesh in 2011 and is being followed up by a survey identifying areas of mutual collaboration.
This effort has been complemented by the Chair of the Applied Research committee, Donna Bergen (USA), who has updated and reorganised the historical “research groups”. It turns out that most of them were not engaged in research, but education. A few have atrophied, others have grown and become separate organisations, such as the Parkinson’s group, yet others have been created to address emerging areas in neurology such as the outcomes and the palliative care groups.
The XXI World Congress of Neurology to take place in Vienna September 21 – 26, 2013 reflects these new alliances, given that several sessions are co-sponsored by the WFN and members of the WBA and the neuro-subspecialty network.
The Presidential session will address global neurology and the WFN’s growing role in advancing a world brain agenda. A special guest of the Congress will be Eric Kandel, Noble Prize winner and native of Vienna who will cover some of the aspects of his recently published book “The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Unconscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present”.
The Congress will feature invited speakers and submitted presentations, teaching courses, seminars, symposia and hands on workshops. It will culminate with a “Tournament of the Mind” a battle of wits of neurologists from 5 continents.
The President of the World Congress of Neurology Vienna 2013 is Professor Eduard Auff, from the Austrian Neurological Society.
This will be the second time that Vienna hosts a World Congress of Neurology. In September 1965 the 8th World Congress of Neurology took place in Vienna. Among the Honorary Presidents was Sir Gordon Holmes. The President was Hans Hoff, the Vice President was Franz Seitelberger, the Scientific Secretary was Helmut Tschabitscher and the General Secretary was Franz Gerstenbrand, who will also take part in the 21st World Congress of Neurology this year.
The World Congress of Neurology in Vienna is likely to be particularly well attended, since the European Federation of Neurological Societies (EFNS) has agreed to combine its annual meeting with the World Congress of Neurology, as has the Austrian Neurological Society, thus the World Congress will be a combination of the Austrian Neurological Society, the EFNS and the WFN meetings. The broad activities and vision of the upcoming WFN Congress will help to shape the future of neurology in the age of globalisation.
Vladimir Hachinski is President of the World Federation of Neurology and Professor of Neurology at Western University in London, ON, Canada