Mental health

Defeating epilepsy: taking stock in Ghana’s multi-country epilepsy workshop

In the African Region, up to 90% of people living with epilepsy go without treatment. This is what is called the treatment gap. In 2012, Ghana launched its Fight Against Epilepsy Initiative, part of the WHO Programme on Reducing the Epilepsy Treatment Gap. The treatment gap was about 58% in the regions of Ghana where the pilot project was implemented. Less than four years later the treatment gap in these areas has already reduced by nearly half.

On 15 –16 September 2015, Ghana’s Minister of Health, the Honorable Alex Segbefia, opened a multi-country workshop attended by more than 150 stakeholders from 17 countries by praising the Initiative’s project team. He spoke of his vision for expanding the Initiative across Ghana and beyond its borders: "Ghana is ready to own this project and scale it up to all 10 regions of the country to improve access to quality care and services for people with epilepsy, and raise epilepsy as a priority on the national health agenda… We believe that the learning that has taken place will be replicated and scaled up in all the regions of Africa and elsewhere.”

“Proper medication, proper medical attention, and a supportive environment can make a person with epilepsy live a better and more fulfilling life. ... It is my wish and prayer that together we will educate everybody on epilepsy”

A person living with epilepsy in Ghana

The policy-makers, experts, people living with epilepsy, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and other key stakeholders who convened in Accra, discussed the project’s achievements. Participants viewed the WHO film, Ghana: treating and defeating epilepsy, which gave further insight into the development of successful non-specialist community-based epilepsy health-care packages. The workshop provided an important platform for deliberations on how continuing challenges in epilepsy care can be overcome in the African Region.

These included the prioritization of epilepsy in health budgets, improving access to diagnosis and treatment at the community level, making anti-epileptic medications available and accessible, and reducing stigma and discrimination. In accordance with the Sixty-eight World Health Assembly‘s 20 recommendations, workshop participants successfully formulated approaches for scaling up Ghana’s project nationally, as well as a framework for advancing epilepsy care across the WHO African Region.

In addition to engaging in policy dialogue, participants listened to the perspectives of people living with epilepsy, NGOs and other community members, with the aim of understanding the needs of people living in communities and how these needs can be addressed. “Proper medication, proper medical attention, and a supportive environment can make a person with epilepsy live a better and more fulfilling life. ... It is my wish and prayer that together we will educate everybody on epilepsy” concluded Francesca Aba Larbie, a person living with epilepsy in Ghana.