Epilepsy is a chronic noncommunicable disease of the brain that affects around 50 million people worldwide (WHO 2019). Up to 70% of people living with epilepsy could become seizure free with appropriate use of antiseizure medicines. Low-cost treatment is available, with daily medication that costs as little as US$ 5 per year.
- In low-income countries, about three quarters of people with epilepsy may not receive the treatment they need. This is called the “treatment gap”.
- In many low- and middle-income countries, there is low availability of antiseizure medication. A recent study found the average availability of generic antiseizure medicines in the public sector of low- and middle-income countries to be less than 50%. This may act as a barrier to accessing treatment.
- It is possible to diagnose and treat most people with epilepsy at the primary health-care level without the use of sophisticated equipment.
- WHO pilot projects have indicated that training primary health-care providers to diagnose and treat epilepsy can effectively reduce the epilepsy treatment gap.
Stepping Forward has supported epilepsy initiatives in Sierra Leone, including access to training and medication and is working with partners to raise awareness of the need for greater prioritisation of epilepsy in national and international programmes.