The World Health Organization (WHO) have published a new technical brief on improving epilepsy treatment and care.
The brief outlines the actions required to deliver an integrated approach to epilepsy treatment and care. It is hoped the document will help to address the multifaceted needs of people with epilepsy.
Over 50 million people across the world suffer from epilepsy. The condition ranks fifth among all neurological causes for disability-adjusted life years (DALYs). Epilepsy causes an estimated 250,000 deaths each year and has numerous wider physical and mental health implications.
Epilepsy can lead to poor general health
Around 50% of people with epilepsy have other physical or mental health conditions. This can lead to poorer health outcomes and increased healthcare needs.
According to WHO, people with epilepsy are continuously subjected to stigmatisation, discrimination, and human rights violations. Epilepsy patients frequently face barriers to education and employment and can find it difficult to participate in social and community life.
“Given epilepsy has significant personal, health, economic and social inclusion consequences for people living with the disorder and for their families and communities, the response should not be anything less than integrated, comprehensive and engaging all of society,” said Dévora Kestel, WHO Director for Mental Health and Substance Use.
Access to epilepsy treatment and care is poor
Many people do not receive the necessary treatment to control their seizures and the treatment gaps in low-income countries can exceed 75% and 50% in most middle-income countries.
These gaps have led to a lack of capacity in healthcare systems, inequitable distribution of resources, the low priority accorded to epilepsy care and people not seeking diagnosis or treatment due to a lack of awareness and stigmatisation.
Epilepsy is highly treatable, however, over 70% of those people with the condition could live seizure-free if they had access to appropriate antiseizure treatment. Epilepsy treatment can cost as little as US$5 a year.
To ensure people have access to the epilepsy treatment, care and diagnostics they need, WHO’s brief sets out the case for tackling the burden of epilepsy through better integration in primary healthcare systems.
The brief highlights the importance of the following areas:
- Providing integrated services across the life course, particularly at the primary care level.
- Improving access to anti-seizure medicines.
- Supplying resources and training to the health and social workforce.
- Combating stigma and discriminatory legislation and practices; promoting and respecting the human rights and full social inclusion of people with epilepsy, their families, and carers.
The brief has been designed to support governments, policymakers, and programme managers in Ministries of health, social protection, education, human rights, and other sectors at national and local levels in implementing the proposed actions to restructure and strengthen their approach to epilepsy treatment and care.
“The levers and corresponding actions along with the linked resources will also be useful in guiding planning and programming by civil society groups, professional associations, academic institutions, organizations of people with epilepsy and their families and carers, and development partners,” said WHO in a recent statement.