Global Neurocare Works with the UN to Combat Neurological Disorders

A prominent neurologist and medical law specialist, Dr. James C. Johnston has been in private practice for nearly 30 years. In addition to his work as a neurologist, James C. Johnston, MD, JD, also serves as a partner with Global Neurology Consultants, where he is mostly concerned with improving health care quality and access in developing regions. To further this vision, Dr. Johnston founded Global Neurocare, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing patient care and increasing medical training and research in developing countries such as Ethiopia.

Neurologists are scarce and resources limited in these developing regions, resulting in the needless deaths of those suffering from neurological disorders every day. Global Neurocare was granted Special Consultative Status with the United Nations in 2013, the highest status granted to a non-governmental organization. The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Committee at the United Nations looks at numerous applications to find non-governmental organizations that coincide with the aims and purposes of other United Nations programs.

Members of organizations granted Special Consultative Status are able to serve as UN delegates at sessions in various locations around the world. Global Neurocare’s status with the UN allows it to raise public awareness, implement international trade agreements, and provide expert analysis on relevant issues, among other benefits. Neurological disorders are recognized by the World Health Organization as one of the greatest threats to public health, and organizations such as Global Neurocare are poised to help with the crisis.

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NON-COMMUNICABLE DISEASES: A GLOBAL HEALTH THREAT

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World Association for Medical Law Congress in Tokyo on 6-8 August 2019.     

Non-communicable diseases (such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes) are collectively responsible for 7 out of 10 deaths in the world, 41 million people every year.  Many of these people die prematurely and the vast majority of these deaths are in the low income countries.  The World Health Organization considers non-communicable diseases to be one of the top ten global health threats.

The situation is even worse in the least developed nations that are facing a triple burden on ongoing infectious diseases, rapidly increasing non-communicable disease and the effects of globalization including accidents and injuries, compounded by a dearth of healthcare workers.

Neurologist and Attorney James C. Johnston, MD, JD and Neurologist Mehila Zebenigus, MD discussed these concerns at the 2018 United Nations (UN) High Level Political Forum in New York and provided specific recommendations for improving healthcare access in the least developed nations, particularly sub-Saharan Africa.

On behalf of Global NeuroCare® Drs. Johnston and Zebenigus published a written statement on improving healthcare as a strategy for poverty reduction at the UN 56th Commission for Social Development with specific recommendations for Member States to improve healthcare access.  Global NeuroCare® is a non-profit organization holding Special Consultative Status with the United Nations ECOSOC.  This allows Drs. Johnston and Zebenigus, as Directors of the NGO, to provide expert analysis on issues related to global health, make written and oral recommendation statements, and serve as UN Delegates at the United Nations sessions in New York, Geneva and Vienna.

Drs. James C. Johnston and Mehila Zebenigus reviewed their recommendations for improving healthcare in developing regions with leading international experts from over 40 countries at the 24th World Association for Medical Law Congress in Tel Aviv, Israel.  The WAML, in conjunction with the Israeli Ministry of Health and Tel Aviv University honored Dr. Johnston with the Inaugural Davies Award in Public Health.  Dr. Johnston dedicated the award to the Addis Ababa University Department of Neurology and donated the funds to Global NeuroCare.®

Drs. Johnston and Zebenigus have published another statement for the 57th Session of the UN Commission for Social Development addressing inequalities and challenges to social inclusion through advancing healthcare strategies.

They will also present these recommendations to the 25th  World Association for Medical Law Congress in Tokyo on 6-8 August 2019.

Electronic Fetal Monitoring and CP

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Dr. James C. Johnston is the founding partner of Global Neurology and Director of the non-profit organization Global NeuroCare. As a board-certified neurologist with thirty years of experience, Dr. James C. Johnston has authored over one hundred peer reviewed journal articles, papers and book chapters on various topics related to neurology and global health including cerebral palsy (CP).

The high rate of CP in developing nations has led many of these regions to seek electronic fetal monitoring (EFM) as a means of reducing perinatal mortality and morbidity. However, EFM is an ineffective modality with a 99% false positive rate, and does not predict cerebral palsy, acidemia, neonatal neurological injury, stillbirths or neonatal encephalopathy. It does increase the C-section rate and is a significant source of harm to mothers and babies.

Despite 50 years of continuous use of EFM, the cerebral palsy rate and rate of other neurological birth related maladies remains unchanged. Continuous EFM should not be used in normal pregnancies, especially in developing regions where it will waste money that is so desperately needed for prenatal and post-partum care for mothers and babies, and add another layer of undesirable morbidity and mortality to an already critical situation.

Dr. James C. Johnston and his colleagues have published a number of peer reviewed articles concerning EFM and CP. They have discussed CP litigation in the Journal of Child Neurology; ethical concerns related to EFM in Maternal Health, Neonatology and Perinatology; review of the Task Force failure to address this problem in J Maternal Fetal and Neonatal Medicine; the history of EFM and medical training for EFM in separate articles in the Surgery Journal; and some of the legal and ethical concerns in Medical Law International.

J of Child Neurology: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4431995/

Maternal Health, Neonatology and Perinatology: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5697350/

J Maternal, Fetal and Neonatal Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26067269

Surgery Journal: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5530627/

Surgery Journal: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5553489/

Medical Law International: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0968533217704883

These and related articles are also available through Researchgate.net at https://www.researchgate.net/profile/James_Johnston6.

“The Ethics of Teaching Physicians Electronic Fetal Monitoring”

 

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Global NeuroCare
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A Neurologist, Partner with Global Neurology Consultants, and Founding Director of the nonprofit organization Global NeuroCare, Dr. James C. Johnston is a Diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, and a Fellow of both the American College of Legal Medicine and the Australasian College of Legal Medicine. Dr. James C. Johnston is a widely published author with recent articles appearing in the Neurologic Clinics; Medical Law International; Neurology; Surgery Journal; and several other peer-reviewed medical journals.

The Surgery Journal published two articles from Dr. Johnston and his colleagues, the most recent entitled “The Ethics of Teaching Physicians Electronic Fetal Monitoring – And Now for the Rest of the Story.” Dr. Johnston and his colleagues Professor Berna Arda and Thomas P. Sartwelle, composed an articulate critique of electronic fetal monitoring (EFM) as a method of predicting and preventing cerebral palsy (CP). The article draws upon Mr. Sartwelle’s decades of experience as a top medical malpractice defense attorney, Dr. Johnston’s considerable medical and legal expertise, and Professor Arda’s unique views of medical ethics gained by her years of teaching at Ankara University where she holds the Chair of Medical Ethics.

“The Ethics of Teaching Physicians Electronic Fetal Monitoring” reviews the history of EFM with a specific focus on CP. Citing the available literature, the article concluded that, not only has EFM proven ineffectual in the diagnosis and prevention of CP, it increases the rate of cesarean sections with concomitant harms to mothers and babies alike. Further, Dr. Johnston and his colleagues stated that EFM, as it is used in defensive medical practice, is a violation of patient autonomy and raises serious ethical concerns. The article may be accessed through the link below:

https://www.thieme-connect.com/products/ejournals/pdf/10.1055/s-0037-1599229.pdf

Obstacles to Epilepsy Treatment in Sub-Saharan Africa

 

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Global NeuroCare
Image: globalneurocare.org

A neurologist in private practice, Dr. James C. Johnston is also a partner with Global Neurology Consultants. In addition, Dr. James C. Johnston is the founder and director of Global NeuroCare, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to improving neurological services worldwide. Global NeuroCare focuses on sub-Saharan Africa.

As a region, sub-Saharan Africa faces a number of obstacles preventing treatment of neurological disorders such as epilepsy. Cultural beliefs play a major role in epilepsy treatment, with family members often hiding the condition, believing that seizures are caused by supernatural forces. People with epilepsy are generally shunned by society, and children may be prohibited from attending school. This phenomenon is not unique to the developing world, as people with epilepsy in developed nations may face various forms of discrimination.

Access to specialist neurology care also presents a major challenge in sub-Saharan Africa. According to a 2009 study published in the journal Seizure, the average round-trip transit time to rural epilepsy clinics in Ethiopia was more than 10 hours, and these are clinics without neurologists, imaging facilities or EEG equipment.

Because most antiepileptic medications are prohibitively expensive or simply unavailable, physicians typically only have access to the anti-epileptic drug phenobarbital. Not only does phenobarbital have numerous adverse side effects, it also limits neurologists in terms of treatment options. As such, it is not surprising that the International League Against Epilepsy cited consistent access to medication as the most important obstacle to bridging the treatment gap in sub-Saharan Africa.

Under the direction of Dr. James C. Johnston, Global NeuroCare works closely with the Addis Ababa University Department of Neurology in an effort to increase the number of locally trained neurologists, advance patient care and overcome some of the obstacles impeding neurological services.