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Integrate epilepsy treatment into primary health services

From the WHO | Updated on June 21, 2019

Three quarters of people living with epilepsy in low-income countries do not get the treatment they need, increasing their risk of dying prematurely and condemning many to a life of stigma.

These findings were published in “Epilepsy, a public health imperative” released by the World Health Organization and leading non-governmental organisations for epilepsy, the International League Against Epilepsy and the International Bureau for Epilepsy.

Treatment gap

“The treatment gap for epilepsy is unacceptably high, when we know that 70 per cent of people with the condition can be seizure-free when they have access to medicines that can cost as little as $5 per year and can be delivered through primary health systems,” said Dr Tarun Dua, from the WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse.

Premature death is three times higher in people with epilepsy. In low- and middle-income countries, early death among people with epilepsy is significantly higher than in high-income countries.

The reasons include possible lack of access to health facilities when seizures are long-lasting or occur close together without recovery in between, and preventable causes such as drowning, head injuries and burns.

Roughly half of adults with epilepsy have at least one other health condition. The most common are depression and anxiety: 23 per cent of adults with epilepsy will experience clinical depression during their lifetime and 20 per cent will have anxiety. Mental health conditions such as these can make seizures worse and reduce the quality of life. Development and learning difficulties are experienced by 30-40 per cent of children with epilepsy.

Stigma prevents people from taking treatment. Treatment for epilepsy can be integrated into primary health services. Reports show that political will facilitates the integration of diagnosis and treatment for epilepsy into the primary health services.

Source: World Health Organization

Published on June 21, 2019

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