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WHO publishes brief calling for integrated approach to epilepsy treatment

Epilepsy affects over 50 million people globally and accounts for 125,000 death per year


The World Health Organization (WHO) has published Improving the Lives of People with Epilepsy, its new technical brief outlining calls for actions needed to provide an integrated approach to epilepsy treatment and care.

The neurological condition affects over 50 million people globally, ranking as the fifth neurological cause for disability-adjusted life years (DALYS), with an estimated 125,000 deaths per year recorded in relation to the disorder.

Epilepsy does not just impact the patient physically, as the condition has broader health implications, with roughly half of all those diagnosed with the disorder suffering from other physical or mental health concerns.

As a result, increased healthcare requirements and poorer health outcomes are common, reinforcing WHO’s call for an approach that can better address the multifaceted needs of epilepsy patients.

In addition to the physical and mental effect epilepsy can have on health, those with the disorder continue to be at the centre of stigmatisation, discrimination and human rights violations.

This can mean people living with epilepsy often face barriers to education and employment, which in turn prevents them from being fully involved socially in community life.

The brief sets out details for addressing the burden of epilepsy via better integration in primary healthcare systems as a means of ensuring epilepsy patients get the treatment they need. The brief draws upon information first introduced by WHO in its Operational framework for primary health care publication, which highlights areas to address regarding the treatment gap.

It also reinforces a call to strengthen services, while promoting a patient-centric, human rights approach in order to fully meet the epilepsy community’s needs.

Many patients with epilepsy do not receive the proper treatment to manage their seizures and the treatment gap exceeds 75% in most low-income countries and 50% in most middle-income countries.

The gap that results is from a mix of lack of capacity in healthcare systems, inequitable distribution of resources and people not seeking diagnosis or treatment due to lack of awareness and stigmatisation. However, epilepsy is treatable. It is estimated that over 70% of patients could live seizure free with access to suitable anti-seizure medication, which can cost as little as $5 per year.

“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.

Article by
Fleur Jeffries

13th December 2022

From: Healthcare



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