The human brain, often regarded as the most remarkable organ in our bodies, serves as the epicenter of all our thoughts, actions, and emotions. It orchestrates our every move, from the simplest reflex to the most complex cognitive processes. Indeed, it is the seat of our identity and the essence of what makes us human. Everything we do, from the mundane tasks of daily life to the most extraordinary feats of innovation, creativity, and exploration, is powered by the intricate workings of our brain.

We write this thanks to our brain. You read this thanks to your brain. There is no health without brain health.

Our brain health is often overlooked: Despite its undeniable importance, the health of our brain is often overlooked until problems arise. This negligence is concerning, given the alarming prevalence of neurological disorders worldwide. In a recent landmark paper published in The Lancet, it was revealed that these disorders are responsible for nearly 10 million deaths and 349 million disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) globally. Among these disorders, stroke has emerged as the primary contributor to both DALYs and deaths, followed closely by migraine.

Migraine: Migraine is the leading cause of disability in Australia with a staggering cost of $40 billion annually!

Access to care among five million migraine sufferers is a major issue as most public health services in Australia maintain well over two years of waiting lists to see a specialist!

The staggering statistics: The sheer scale of these statistics underscores the urgent need for comprehensive strategies to address the burden of neurological disorders and optimise brain health worldwide. Preventative measures must be prioritised to mitigate the impact of these conditions and improve outcomes for individuals at risk. It is essential to recognise that many neurological disorders are preventable, and investing in preventative brain health initiatives can yield significant benefits for individuals and societies alike.

In 2021, one in three individuals worldwide suffered from a neurological disorder, making it the primary contributor to DALYs. This prevalence affected a staggering 3.40 billion people, representing an 18.2 per cent increase in global DALY counts between 1990 and 2021. While there has been a significant decrease in age-standardised rates of deaths and DALYs over the years, the persistent burden of neurological disorders remains a pressing concern.

Top 10 neurological conditions: Among the top ten neurological conditions in 2021 were stroke, migraine, Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, and others. These conditions not only pose significant health challenges but also contribute to substantial economic and social burdens. Moreover, neurological disorders are often disproportionately burdened by health inequities, with low- and middle-income countries bearing the brunt of the disease burden.

For example, epilepsy, a common neurological disorder, affects approximately 50 million individuals worldwide, with around 80 per cent of cases concentrated in low- and middle-income countries. These regions face significant treatment gaps, exacerbating the challenges faced by affected populations and highlighting the urgent need for improved access to care and resources.

Professor Tissa Wijeratne OAM. Photo: Supplied

What are we doing: In light of these challenges, initiatives like World Migraine Day, led by Professor Tissa Wijeratne Head of Neurology at Western Health, myself and the team from the Migraine Foundation ( and Global SIG-Migraine, play a crucial role in raising awareness and promoting preventative brain health. Events such as the World Migraine Day on 16 June 2024 ( provide a platform to educate the public about migraine and other neurological disorders, as well as the importance of early intervention and preventative measures.

Furthermore, community-driven initiatives, such as the “Steps 4 Migraine” campaign, serve as a powerful tool for mobilising support and resources towards preventative brain health efforts. By inviting the Greek community in Australia to join in promoting brain health and supporting fellowships for migraine patients, this campaign demonstrates the potential for grassroots initiatives to drive meaningful change and improve outcomes for individuals affected by neurological disorders.

To sum up: The brain is undeniably one of the most incredible organs in the human body, responsible for shaping our experiences, behaviours, and identities. However, the prevalence of neurological disorders highlights the urgent need for comprehensive strategies to optimise brain health and prevent the onset of these conditions. Our brains are at a crossroad. By prioritising preventative measures, raising awareness, and mobilising support at both the community and global levels, we can work towards a future where neurological disorders no longer pose a significant threat to individual well-being and public health.

This article was written together with my colleague, Professor Tissa Wijeratne OAM MD PhD FRACP, Head of Neurology and Stroke Services, Western Health

See you at the Flagstaff Gardens, Melbourne on 16 June 2024.

You can register here.