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Awareness of headache and of national headache society activities among primary care physicians – a qualitative study

Andreas R Gantenbein12*, Christian Jäggi3, Mathias Sturzenegger4, Claudio Gobbi5, Gabriele S Merki-Feld6, Mark J Emmenegger7, Ethan Taub8, Peter S Sándor9 and on behalf of the SHS Study Group

Author Affiliations

1 Neurorehabilitation, RehaClinic Bad Zurzach, Quellenstrasse 34, Bad Zurzach, CH-5330, Switzerland

2 Headache and Pain Unit, Department of Neurology, University Hospital Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

3 IMK Institute for Medicine and Communication, Basel, Switzerland

4 University Hospital Inselspital, Bern, Switzerland

5 Neurocenter of Southern Switzerland, Lugano, Switzerland

6 University Women’s Hospital Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

7 Neurological Practice, Agno, Switzerland

8 Department of Neurosurgery, University Hospital Basel, Basel, Switzerland

9 Neurorehabilitation, RehaClinic, Baden, Switzerland

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BMC Research Notes 2013, 6:118  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-6-118

Published: 26 March 2013



Headache is one of the most common symptoms in primary care. To improve the quality of headache diagnosis and management with the largest possible benefit for the general population, headache and pain societies around the world have recently been devoting more attention to headache in primary care.

The aim of the study was to investigate the potential contribution that national societies can make toward raising the awareness of primary headaches in general practice.


In a qualitative telephone survey, targeting primary care practices (PCP), we asked about the frequency of headache patients in their practices and inquired about their treatment and referral strategies.

A total of 1000 telephone interviews with PCP have been conducted. Three-hundred and fifty physicians have been directly interviewed, 95% of them see headache patients every week, 23% daily. Direct MRI referral is done by 84%. Sixty-two per cent of the physicians knew the Swiss headache society, 73% were interested in further education about headaches.


The survey yielded information about the physicians’ awareness of the Swiss Headache Society and its activities, and about their desire for continuing education in the area of headache. National headache societies should work to improve the cooperation between headache specialists and PCP, aiming for a better care for our patients with headache.

Headache; Primary care; MRI; Awareness; National society; Migraine