Epilepsy is the most common chronic brain disease and affects people of all ages. More than 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy; nearly 80% of them live in low- and middle-income countries.
An estimated 70% of people with epilepsy could be seizure free if properly diagnosed and treated. However, about three quarters of people with epilepsy in low-income countries do not get the treatment they need, and this rises to 90% in some countries. In many such countries, many health professionals do not have the training to recognize, diagnose and treat epilepsy. In most resource-poor countries, anti-seizure medications are not available.
People with epilepsy and their families frequently suffer from stigma and discrimination. In many parts of the world the true nature of epilepsy has also long been distorted by myths, fear and mistaken notions about the disorder.
WHO is working with ministries of health and partners to improve access to treatment for epilepsy.
The WHO Programme on Reducing the Epilepsy Treatment Gap combines several innovative strategies to support access and care to services for people with epilepsy, thereby reducing the epilepsy treatment gap. The Programme is currently being implemented in four countries – Ghana, Mozambique, Myanmar and Viet Nam – with hopes to expand implementation to all low- and middle-income countries
Previous WHO collaborative programmes on epilepsy have shown that integrating epilepsy care in primary health care can significantly reduce the epilepsy treatment gap. Based on the evidence-based methods of the WHO Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP), WHO will support the training of primary care, non-specialist health care providers to diagnose, treat and follow up people with epilepsy. In the four pilot countries, the national health authorities have committed to the training of health care providers and integrating epilepsy care within their primary care systems.
Stigma and discrimination prevent people with epilepsy from seeking treatment and from leading meaningful lives. The WHO Programme on Reducing the Epilepsy Treatment Gap seeks to mobilize NGOs and community groups to inform and engage communities on epilepsy, and to better support people with epilepsy and their families.