The Problem Summarized

Headache disorders are real, common, disabling and often lifelong illnesses affecting men, women and children in every part of the world.

Tension-type headache (TTH) and migraine are the second and third most prevalent diseases in the world according to the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 [reference 1] (only dental caries is more common). Migraine is the 6th leading cause of disability, responsible for almost 3% of all disability and more than half of all disability arising from neurological disorders. Migraine is the cause of an estimated 400,000 lost days from work or school every year for each million of the population in developed countries.

Some headache disorders are characterised by headache occurring on more days than not. These include medication-overuse headache (MOH), which is caused by mistreatment of headache. MOH is the 18th highest cause of disability. TTH, migraine and MOH together are the 3rd leading cause of disability in the world, and top cause in women under 50 years.

That is one side of the problem.
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"The discoveries of the last 15 years – so exciting in the developed world – do not touch a large majority of the world's headache-blighted lives."
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The second is that, although good health care can greatly reduce this burden, it still persists everywhere. In some places it is not lessened at all.

The principal reason is that health-care systems, which should provide this care, simply do not reach many who need it. This abject health-care failure has its roots in education failure at every level, and in the resulting and widespread lack of understanding [reference 2].

A third side of the problem is perspective. Research into disease mechanisms is unquestionably important if they are to be understood and new and more effective treatments made available. Yet we know that the discoveries of the last 15 years – so exciting in the developed world – do not touch a large majority of the world's headache-blighted lives.

This is why headache matters as a public-health imperative.
 
References
 1. Vos T et al. Years lived with disability (YLDs) for 1160 sequelae of 289 diseases and injuries 1990-2010: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010. Lancet 2012; 380: 2163-2196.
 2. World Health Organization and Lifting The Burden. Atlas of headache disorders and resources in the world 2011. Geneva: WHO 2011.
 
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