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Last Updated: Saturday, 27 March, 2004, 00:56 GMT
Headache sufferers 'denied help'
Over use of medicines can cause headaches
People are needlessly suffering from headaches because they are not getting access to treatment, say experts.

Headache disorders must be given higher priority by health providers around the world, say campaigners launching a new global initiative.

The Lifting the Burden campaign says better education among health professionals will improve care. The initiative, backed by the World Health Organization, will target both developed and developing countries.

Headache disorders are a huge cost to society in lost productivity and sickness absence, say campaign organisers.

However, many people are being denied access to effective, low-cost treatments.

This is partly because headache disorders are not recognised as health conditions in some countries.

Too many people are not getting the help they need
Dr Fred Sheftell, World Headache Alliance
However, it is widely recognised that on a global scale, headache disorders have low priority when it comes to allocating health-care resources.

Campaign organisers believe the most effective way to deal with both issues is better education for health care providers.

Dr Fred Sheftell, from the World Headache Alliance said: "A powerful humanitarian and economic arguments exist for making headache a health-care priority.

"We have to build public awareness about the impact of headache as serious disorders that can disrupt quality of life and, at its worst, destroy quality of life for chronic sufferers.

"Headache disorders are neurological conditions that respond to treatment. Unfortunately, too many people are not getting the help they need."


Three major international non-governmental organisations are partners in the WHO campaign - the World Headache Alliance (WHA), the International Headache Society (IHS) and the European Headache Federation (EHF).

Campaigners say patients are not receiving treatments that should be available to them and mismanagement commonly intensifies the problem.

There is further concern that over use of medications is the cause of daily headache in large numbers of adults and children.

Effective treatments exist and for the vast majority of people with headache, good management that alleviates symptoms and reduces disability, does not require expensive tests, equipment or specialists, say campaigners.

British consultant and chairman of the global campaign committee Dr Timothy Steiner said: "Through education, better care and reduction of burden not only are possible but also can be cost-effective through more efficient use of currently allocated resources or by reducing the consequential financial costs of headache.

"But in each region we need local people to work with, and agencies with influence to effect or support change wherever change is both necessary and possible."

The Lifting the Burden campaign will set priorities and find localised effective and affordable solutions that promote the availability of better treatment.

It states that this will depend on health providers improving their understanding, recognition and diagnosis of headache disorders and suggesting appropriate lifestyle modifications.

They will also need to adopt cost-effective pharmaceutical remedies and avoid mistreatment.

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