The limited available data from Africa suggests the prevalence of CP is 3-fold higher than in the developed world. CP may be due to genetic mutations that impact brain development, or other damage to the brain as well as acquired causes including post-natal diseases such as meningitis or cerebral malaria.
There is no cure for CP, but children should be treated with appropriate physical, occupational and speech therapy, as well as medications for management of seizures or spasticity, and appropriate specialist care. Assistive devices are also necessary to ensure children are able to lead productive lives if possible.
More importantly, neurological specialist care is essential to treat the children as well as train therapists, coordinate research and teach the general practitioners how to address CP. This is an overwhelming hurdle in sub-Saharan Africa where there is a severe shortage of neurologists, and many patients are treated by traditional healers. Global NeuroCare works in partnership with the Addis Ababa University Department of Neurology which has trained almost 40 neurologists over the past decade, increasing the ratio in Ethiopia to one neurologist for every 2-3 million people. The program now trains physicians from other Africa nations but it will be many years, if ever, before this region meets the World Health Organization recommendation of one neurologist for every 100,000 people. Even then, if it ever reaches that ratio, the neurologists need adequate resources to treat these children with CP and related conditions, including trained therapists, adequate medications and a contingent of other specialists to manage the orthopedic issues, impaired vision, and hearing loss.
And this is just one condition having a profound impact on this region of the world - it is imperative for the medical community to focus on advancing neurological care in Africa, which already has the greatest burden of disease and the least resources.
James C. Johnston, MD, JD recently discussed the important of addressing this burden in Africa, and previously summarized the model training program in Ethiopia in letters to Neurology Today.