Neuroepidemiology: applying research to prevention one article at a time

New specialty section in Neuroepidemiology to be headed by Chief Editor committed to the dissemination of knowledge to all. Image by Shutterstock.

There is so much to be gained from a better understanding of the factors that predispose us to development and progression of serious neurological illness. Image by Shutterstock.

New specialty section on Neuroepidemiology to be headed by Chief Editor, Professor George Jelinek who is committed to the dissemination of knowledge to all.

We are proud and delighted to announce the launch of the new specialty section, Neuroepidemiology, within Frontiers in Neurology, which will be led by Specialty Chief Editor Professor George Jelinek, Head of the Neuroepidemiology Unit at The University of Melbourne.

Jelinek’s personal experience of living with multiple sclerosis (MS) for almost two decades has had a profound impact on the direction of his work. It was central to his decision to switch focus from Emergency Medicine to Epidemiology and he is passionate about reducing the burden of this disease and other dread neurological diseases on our community.

The launching of the Neuroepidemiology section is indeed timely. Since the term ‘neuroepidemiology’ was coined by John F. Kurtzke and his colleagues 50 years ago, there has been slow growth in the specialty. Only a few universities offer training in the area, most of them concentrated in the United States. Professor Jelinek is adamant that there should be increased focus on the area from our top scientists.

People with these diseases are typically very active in sourcing research. Through pay-walls, subscription journals have however prevented access to new research for those who sought to educate themselves about their lifechanging illnesses.

Professor Jelinek has long been in favour of collaborative and transparent peer review. He argues that many affected by neurological diseases are marginalised, not only by society but also by older publication models which are neither innovative nor progressive, and hinder research translation.

In his Specialty Grand Challenge paper, Jelinek highlights his key research focus: how lifestyle modifications can be used to manage conditions, such as MS, in addition to conventional disease-modifying medications which are brought to market following randomised controlled trials (RCTs). RCTs, are however much more difficult in the area of behaviour and lifestyle change, and he elaborates about the problems and disadvantages of conventional RCTs in this area. He argues that new techniques in observational epidemiology are beginning to transform our capacity to infer causality.

“While epidemiology is the study of frequencies, trends and determinants of disease in specified populations, the over-riding aim of epidemiology is to apply such knowledge to prevention” – Professor George Jelinek, Specialty Chief Editor of Neuroepidemiology section in Frontiers in Frontiers in Neurology.

Therefore, the key challenge for the field and is to continue to develop more sophisticated epidemiological and bio-statistical techniques that will allow us to better infer causation.

The section scope stresses that research is not simply an academic exercise. The aim is to use this research to ultimately develop preventive interventions for the benefit of people with these neuroepidemiological illnesses.

The section is committed to developing and strengthening the evidence base around modifiable factors that can be addressed in a preventive medicine model. Professor Jelinek encourages more formal use of data derived from patient encounters to enhance our growing evidence base about the frequencies, trends and determinants of these neurological illnesses.

There is so much to be gained from a better understanding of the factors that predispose us to development and progression of serious neurological illness.

As Specialty Chief Editor, Professor Jelinek aims to ensure the growth in number and quality of scientifically robust studies on the health of populations with neurological diseases, to facilitate translation into meaningful positive interventions in the lives of people with serious neurological disease everywhere. The section will incorporate both classical and clinical strands of neuroepidemiology with an important focus on novel and emerging epidemiological methods that more strongly infer causation, rather than simply association.

Neuroepidemiology is now ready to welcome submissions.

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