Neurological disorder screening in the elderly in low-income countries

Felicity Dewhurst, Matthew J. Dewhurst, Golda Orega, William K. Gray, William Howlett, Naomi Warren, Eric Aris, Richard W. Walker
Publication year: 

There are few data on neurological disorder prevalence from developing countries, particularly in the elderly in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). This is in part due to the lack of a feasible and valid screening instrument. We aimed to develop (and pilot) a brief screening instrument for neurological disorders in an elderly population in SSA. Our study population of 2,232 was selected at random from the entire 70 years and over population of a demographic surveillance site in rural Tanzania. One village, with a population of 277, was randomly selected as a pilot site prior to screening the rest of the study population. We designed a screening questionnaire based on the neurological section of the WHO International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems 10th Revision for use by non-medical interviewers (NMI). Of the 277 participants aged 70 years and over in the pilot village, 82 had neurological disorders, with a further 267 identified as having neurological disorders during the study extension to the remaining study population of 1955. The questionnaire was practical, acceptable to recipients, and easily performed by an NMI. The sensitivity and specificity of the questionnaire were 87.8 and 94.9 %, respectively, in the pilot and 97.0 and 90.4 %, respectively, in the extension. This is the first published screening instrument for measuring the prevalence of neurological disorders in a developing country, which is dedicated to the elderly population. It is feasible to use and has high sensitivity and specificity.