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80% of people with epilepsy live in low and middle income countries. A lack of co-ordinated healthcare and access to medicine means that many people have no help with the physical effects of seizures and the social effects of stigma and depression. This means that 7/10 people with epilepsy receive no treatment. However anti-epileptic drugs allow 70% of people to live seizure free – for only US$5 per year. This vast difference in treatment in different parts of the world is called The Treatment Gap.
This new resolution places equal importance on medical care and social aspects of living with epilepsy like stigma, discrimination and isolation. It also includes carers of people with epilepsy. The Executive Board, including the UK Chief Medical Officer, will submit the resolution to a meeting of the WHO’s General Assembly in May where it is expected to be adopted as official policy. The WHO want to see changes happen quickly and hope that positive changes will be evident by the World Health Assembly 2018.
The WHO want to highlight the problems of people with epilepsy living in vulnerable conditions – like poor or remote areas. It wants governments to commit resources to improve public health services – this includes access to safe medicines as well as training for healthcare workers to diagnose and treat epilepsy and raising awareness in schools.
Lesslie Young, Chief Executive of Epilepsy Scotland said: “This new resolution is excellent news for people with epilepsy throughout the world - particularly in countries without access to even basic services and medication. It also has an impact on developed nations where governments will now be required to develop specific plans to improve epilepsy services and address social problems faced by people with epilepsy. As a member of the International Bureau of Epilepsy (IBE) Epilepsy Scotland has supported the need for this resolution and we will use it to continue our campaign for better services for epilepsy. ”
WHO film on the epilepsy treatment gap
WHO infographics on epilepsy http://www.who.int/mental_health/neurology/epilepsy/infographic_2015.pdf?ua=1