Epilepsy Around the World

Source: World Health Organization and International League Against Epilepsy

Key facts about epilepsy:

  • Epilepsy is a chronic noncommunicable disorder of the brain that affects around 65 million people worldwide. Their risk of premature death is two-to-three times higher than for the general population.
  • Epilepsy is one of the world’s oldest recognized diseases. Fear, misunderstanding, discrimination, and social stigma have surrounded epilepsy for centuries.
  • Epilepsy responds to treatment about 70% of the time, (i.e. seizures completely controlled) with anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs). After two to five years of successful treatment, drugs can be withdrawn in about 70% of children and 60% of adults without relapses.
  • People with epilepsy and their families suffer from stigma and discrimination in many parts of the world.

Epilepsy in under-developed regions:

  • Nearly 80% of those with epilepsy live in under-developed regions.
  • The occurrence of epilepsy in developing countries is between 6 – 10 per 1,000. Annual new cases are between 80 – 140 per 100,000. These numbers are roughly twice those found in the developed world.
  • At least 75% of people with epilepsy in developing countries don’t get needed treatment. For example, about 90% of those with epilepsy in Africa go untreated.
  • In many developing countries, there is low availability and high relative cost of anti-epileptic drugs. One study found the average availability of generic AEDs in the public sector to be less than 50%.
  • People with epilepsy face many challenges, including having reduced access to insurance, being denied driver’s licenses, and being barred from certain occupations. In many countries legislation reflects centuries of misunderstanding about epilepsy.

The ROW Foundation's response to epilepsy:

  • The ROW Foundation recognizes that epilepsy and its associated psychiatric disorders are a major public health concern. We support the World Health Organization (WHO), the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE), and the International Bureau for Epilepsy (IBE) in carrying out a global campaign to raise awareness about epilepsy.The ROW Foundation is committed to strengthening public and private efforts to improve care and reduce epilepsy’s impact. We support projects in under-developed regions of the world:
    • to train and educate health professionals
    • to improve the ability of health care providers to diagnose epilepsy
    • to reduce the treatment gap and morbidity of people with epilepsy and associated psychiatric disorders
    • to dispel stigma and identify potential for prevention

Helpful Links

World Health Organization
WHO is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system. It is responsible for providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries and monitoring and assessing health trends. The recent WHO video Epilepsy: Treat It, Defeat It provides an excellent overview of epilepsy around the world.
International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE)
The International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE) is the world’s preeminent association of physicians and other health professionals working towards a world where no persons’ life is limited by epilepsy. ILAE’s mission is to ensure that health professionals, patients and their care providers, governments, and the public world-wide have the educational and research resources that are essential in understanding, diagnosing and treating persons with epilepsy.
International Bureau for Epilepsy (IBE)
The International Bureau for Epilepsy (IBE) was established in 1961 as an organization of laypersons and professionals interested in the medical and non-medical aspects of epilepsy. The IBE addresses such social problems as education, employment, insurance, driving license restrictions and public awareness.
American Epilepsy Society
The American Epilepsy Society (AES) is one of the oldest neurological professional organizations in the United States. The Society seeks to promote interdisciplinary communications, scientific investigation and exchange of clinical information about epilepsy.
Epilepsy Foundation
The Epilepsy Foundation is a community-based, family-led organization dedicated to improving the lives of all people impacted by seizures. The foundation provides programs, services and support in the community; encourages innovation in accelerating new treatments and therapies; educates about proper seizure awareness, recognition and first aid; and advocates for improved rights and regulations involving people living with epilepsy.
World Federation for Mental Health
WFMH is an international membership organization founded in 1948 to advance the prevention of mental and emotional disorders, the proper treatment and care of those with such disorders, and the promotion of
mental health. The Federation is the only worldwide grassroots advocacy and  public education organization in the mental health field.
World Psychiatric Association
The WPA is an association of national psychiatric societies aimed to increase knowledge and skills necessary for work in the field of mental health and the care for the mentally ill. Its member societies are presently 140, spanning 120 different countries and representing more than 200,000 psychiatrists. WPA promotes the advancement of psychiatry and mental health for all people of the world.
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