Shahdar visiting hospital for a check up with his wife.

What needs to be done?

MSIF believes that:

Each country should have a national plan or guidelines for the healthcare of people with MS.

  • Such plans should aim to include the most recent global diagnostic criteria for MS

Organisations/networks that focus on neurological conditions should work together to enable earlier diagnosis of neurological conditions, including MS.

  • In particular, they should collaborate on shared challenges such as:
    • The number and training of neurologists, and other professionals involved in neurological care.
    • Access to cost-effective diagnostic tests and equipment.

Challenges in diagnosing MS

An early diagnosis is vital to enable early treatment with disease modifying therapies that can minimise relapses and reduce future disability. Even if disease modifying therapies are not available, an early diagnosis is still crucial as it allows for lifestyle changes to help manage the disease and improve quality of life.

Data from the Atlas of MS shows that:

  1. The majority (83%) of countries worldwide have barriers that prevent early diagnosis of MS. Globally the most commonly reported barrier is a lack of awareness of MS symptoms amongst the public and healthcare professionals. In low and lower middle income countries other barriers are also common, including the availability of qualified healthcare professionals as well as the availability and cost of the diagnostic equipment and tests.
  2. Use of the most recent criteria for diagnosing MS (McDonald 2017) correlates with country wealth. There is almost universal use (98%) in high income countries compared to less than half (40%) of low income countries using the criteria. The most common barrier cited for not using McDonald 2017 is a lack of awareness or training for neurologists.

Find out more about global barriers to MS diagnosis here, and learn about the most recent guidelines for the differential diagnosis of MS here.

What can you do to help?

Get the evidence

Data about MS in your country/region is a powerful tool for change. Access country-level data about MS and barriers to diagnosis through the Atlas of MS website, and see how your country compares with other countries in your region.

In 2023, MSIF in collaboration with several experts from around the world published data on global barriers to diagnosis in the journal Neurology. This publication can be used to strengthen and make the case for improving MS diagnosis. Access the publication here, as well as an editorial written about the topic, and a blog from Professor Dilraj Sokhi providing a perspective from Kenya. We can provide slides that illustrate the main messages in this publication – please email if you would like to use them.

Get help with advocacy

Find out more about what advocacy is, how to get started, and how other organisations have successful advocated to improve access to diagnosis.

The WHO’s 10-year plan to improve healthcare for neurological conditions

The World Health Organization’s intersectoral global action plan (IGAP) has recommendations for improving access to diagnosis for neurological disorders. Find out more here about how you can use the IGAP as an advocacy tool.

Learn from others

There have been many advocacy successes across the global MS movement that have resulted in improved access to MS healthcare. Equally, there have been challenges and lessons learned. You can learn from case studies, advice and tips from individuals and organisations around the world here.