Mental health

WHO Programme on Reducing the Epilepsy Treatment Gap

Epilepsy: Treat it. Defeat it.

Epilepsy can be treated. Yet, almost three quarters of affected people in developing countries don’t get treatment. In certain countries this figure rises to 90%. Why? In most resource-poor countries, antiepileptic medicines are not available. And in most such countries, many health professionals do not have the training to recognize, diagnose and treat epilepsy. 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, which lead to stigma and discrimination against people with epilepsy and their families.

To defeat epilepsy, the WHO Programme on Reducing the Epilepsy Treatment Gap combines several innovative strategies to tackle all three of these elements. The WHO Programme is currently being implemented in 4 countries: Ghana, Mozambique, Myanmar and Viet Nam.

Aim of the WHO Programme on Reducing the Epilepsy Treatment Gap

The WHO Programme on Reducing the Epilepsy Treatment Gap aims to support access and care to services for people with epilepsy, thereby reducing the epilepsy treatment gap.

What is “the treatment gap”? It is the percentage of people who do not receive treatment out of the total number of people living with epilepsy.

Integrate epilepsy care in primary care

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 4 pilot countries, the national health authorities have committed to the training of health care providers and integrating epilepsy care within their primary care systems.

Stop stigma and discrimination

Stigma and discrimination not only prevent people with epilepsy from seeking treatment but also prevent them 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.

Make available inexpensive and effective medications

Reducing the epilepsy treatment gap in the 4 pilot countries means hundreds of thousands of people will be able to live full and productive lives, which would otherwise not have been possible. But this is only the beginning.

Expanding the pilot project

Reducing the epilepsy treatment gap in 4 countries over 4 years means hundreds of thousands of people will be able to live full and productive lives, which would otherwise not have been possible. But this is only the beginning.

Millions more live in the shadows, stalked by fear, shame and hopelessness. With additional support, and the commitment of more countries, the WHO Programme on Reducing the Epilepsy Treatment Gap can be implemented in all low- and middle-income countries.