Discussions with the World Health Organization (WHO), which led to the Global Campaign, began in late 1996. The purpose initially was to persuade WHO that headache disorders should be recognized amongst their global public-health priorities. WHO listened, and requested evidence in support of this claim.

In March 2000, WHO hosted a 2-day meeting of experts in Geneva to hear the available evidence. This gave rise to WHO's publication Headache disorders and public health [reference 1].

Later in 2000, by working with WHO and using their methodology, further evidence was adduced of the worldwide disability burden attributable to migraine. This was incorporated in the Global Burden of Disease 2000 study. The results were published the following year in WHO's World Health Report 2001 [reference 2]. They showed, for the first time, that migraine was in the top 20 causes of disability in the world.

All the evidence needed had been assembled. In September 2003, WHO signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the three major international headache nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The NGOs were the lay World Headache Alliance (WHA) and the professional International Headache Society (IHS) and European Headache Federation (EHF), all charities registered in England and Wales.

The Memorandum acknowledged the worldwide burden attributable to headache disorders, and formally gave the recognition sought: that headache disorders are a global public-health priority. Further, it committed the signing parties to a joint campaign aimed at alleviating this burden.

The Global Campaign against Headache was formally launched in Copenhagen in March 2004.

It has moved on since - with many activities completed [reference 3]. Lifting The Burden, which leads the Campaign, is now a legal entity in its own right, incorporated and registered as a charity in the UK.

More broadly based now, the Global Campaign is better described as a collaboration between WHO, international non-governmental organizations, academic institutions and many willing individuals around the world.

Its academic base, originally at Imperial College London, has moved to the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), where it is better supported; the interests and research priorities of the Department of Neuroscience at NTNU enthusiastically embrace headache and global public health.


  1. World Health Organization. Headache disorders and public health. Geneva: WHO 2000.
  2. World Health Organization. World Health Report 2001. Geneva: WHO 2001.
  3. Steiner TJ et al. Lifting The Burden: the first 7 years. J Headache Pain 2010; 11: 451-455. [view document]



Back to main menu