Health equity, care access and quality in headache - part 2

Bianca Raffaelli, Eloísa Rubio-Beltrán, Soo-Jin Cho, Roberto De Icco, Alejandro Labastida-Ramirez, Dilara Onan, Raffaele Ornello, Ruth Ruscheweyh, Marta Waliszewska-Prosół, Roberta Messina, Francesca Puledda

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Headache disorders are a global public health concern affecting diverse populations. This review examines headache service organizations in low-, middle-, and high-income countries. It addresses global challenges in pharmacological headache treatment, with a focus on safety, tolerability, reproductive and child health, and outlines disparities in accessing innovative treatments worldwide.

MAIN BODY: Organized headache services are essential due to the wide prevalence and varying severity of headache disorders. The tiered headache service model is globally recognized, although its implementation varies based on financial and workforce considerations. Headache burden affects well-being, causing disability, economic challenges, and work limitations, irrespective of location or income. All nations still require improved diagnosis and treatment, and the majority of countries face obstacles including limited access, awareness, economic barriers, and inadequate health policies. Provided adequate internet availability, telemedicine could help improve health equity by expanding access to headache care, since it can offer patients access to services without lengthy waiting times or extensive travel and can provide healthcare unavailable in underserved areas due to staff shortages. Numerous health disparities restrict global access to many headache medications, especially impacting individuals historically excluded from randomized controlled trials, such as those with cardiovascular and cerebrovascular conditions, as well as pregnant women. Furthermore, despite advancements in researching migraine treatments for young patients, the options for treatment remain limited. Access to headache treatment relies on factors like medication availability, approval, financial coverage, and healthcare provider expertise. Inadequate public awareness leads to neglect by policymakers and undertreatment by patients and healthcare providers. Global access discrepancies are exacerbated by the introduction of novel disease-specific medications, particularly impacting Asian, African, and Latin American nations excluded from clinical trials. While North America and Europe experience broad availability of migraine treatments, the majority of countries worldwide lack access to these therapies.

CONCLUSIONS: Healthcare disparities, treatment access, and medication availability are concerning issues in headache medicine. Variations in national healthcare systems impact headache management, and costly innovative drugs are widening these gaps. Healthcare practitioners and experts should acknowledge these challenges and work towards minimizing access barriers for equitable global headache care in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167
JournalThe journal of headache and pain
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 13 Dec 2023


  • Child
  • Humans
  • Female
  • Pregnancy
  • Health Equity
  • Headache
  • Migraine Disorders
  • Disabled Persons
  • Health Personnel


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