Health and Healthcare Systems

Parkinson's could become a pandemic

An elderly man holds a glass of syrup during the afternoon break at an elderly home as summer temperatures continue to rise in Nice, France, July 20, 2017.           REUTERS/Eric Gaillard - RC1F304BFD10

Between 1990 and 2015, the prevalence of Parkinson’s more than doubled. Image: REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

Mark Michaud
Associate Director of Communication, University of Rochester
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Health and Healthcare Systems?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Global Health is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Global Health

The number of people with Parkinson’s disease will soon grow to pandemic proportions—and the medical community needs to mobilize to respond to the impending public health threat—experts say.

“Pandemics are usually equated with infectious diseases like Zika, influenza, and HIV,” says Ray Dorsey, a neurologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center. “But neurological disorders are now the leading cause of disability in the world and the fastest growing is Parkinson’s disease.”

A commentary by Dorsey and Bastiaan Bloem of Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands, appears in JAMA Neurology and builds on Dorsey’s Global Burden of Disease study which appeared in The Lancet Neurology in September. That tracked the prevalence of neurological diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, stroke, epilepsy, meningitis, encephalitis, multiple sclerosis, and migraine, both globally and by country.

In the new commentary, the authors point out that between 1990 and 2015, the prevalence of Parkinson’s more than doubled and it is estimated that 6.9 million people across the globe have the disease.

By 2040, that number of people with Parkinson’s will grow to 14.2 million as the population ages—a rate of growth that will outpace that of Alzheimer’s. Further, the estimates are likely conservative due underreporting, misdiagnosis, and increasing life expectancy.

Image: Statista

To combat the growing pandemic, the medical community should pursue the same strategies that, in 15 years, transformed HIV from an unknown and fatal illness into a highly treatable chronic condition.

“People with HIV infection simply demanded better treatments and successfully rallied for both awareness and new treatments, literally chaining themselves to the doors of pharmaceutical companies,” Bloem says. “Today, HIV has become a treatable, chronic disease.

“This upcoming increase in the number of Parkinson patients is striking and frankly worrisome. We feel it is urgent that people with Parkinson’s go to the pharmaceutical industry and policymakers alike, demanding immediate action to fight this enormous threat.”

Researchers say the Parkinson’s community must come together and focus its activism in several ways:

Support a better understanding of the environmental, genetic, and behavioral causes and risk factors for Parkinson’s to help prevent its onset.

Increase access to care—an estimated 40 percent of people with the disease in both the US and Europe don’t see a neurologist and the number is far greater in developing nations.

Advocate for increases in research funding for the disease.

Lower cost of treatments—many patients in low-income countries don’t have access to drugs that are both lifesaving and improve quality of life.

“For too long the Parkinson’s community has been too quiet on these issues,” Dorsey says. “Building on the AIDS community’s motto of ‘silence=death,’ the Parkinson’s community should make their voices heard. The current and future burden of this debilitating disease depends upon their action.”

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

Feeding the future: why Renovation and Reinvention are key to saving our food system

Juliana Weltman Glezer

June 13, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum