By Hafsa Obeng, GNA
Accra, Sept. 7, GNA – The Mental Health Authority, in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO), on Thursday launched the “fight against epilepsy initiative” report, in Accra.
The report is to raise awareness and educate the general public on the true facts about epilepsy and the urgent need for improved treatment, better care and greater investment in research.
It also seeks to create a platform for people with epilepsy to share their experiences and stories with the national and ultimately a global audience and also to call for people to advocate for appropriate legislation that would guarantee human rights of people with epilepsy and encourage them to live to their fullest potential.
Mr Kinsley Aboagye Jedu, Deputy Minister of Health, said epilepsy is a chronic non-communicable disease that affects all people of all ages across the world, and in Ghana there is an estimated 270,000 person living with it.
He said unfortunately even though treatment for the condition is available, about 75 per cent of people in low and middle income countries do not receive it, thus making it one of the health conditions of the world with treatment gabs.
He said Ghana is one of the four demonstration project countries where the WHO is piloting the programme to bring any detection and treatment services closer to where people within live and help develop models of care that can be used to bridge the treatment gab in epilepsy.
Mr Jedu said the report contains the successes achieved in the fight against epilepsy initiative in spite of the teaming challenges the ministry and the preventive agencies in Ghana are faced with.
He noted that 2,700 new cases of people living with epilepsy were diagnosed and treated during the project, and it further recorded significant improvement in the quality of life of over three quarters of patients under the project.
The report also outlines efforts made to integrate epilepsy cases in primary health care in Ghana and ensure community participation.
Over the five-year period, 29 specialists, including neurologists and psychiatrists, were trained to be trainers and supervisors in epilepsy care management.
Additional 690 specialists primary health care providers were also trained to diagnose and treat epilepsy and also 770 community health workers and volunteers were trained to detect possible cases of epilepsy, to assist in acute seizure episodes and to refer cases for better medical care.
The project confirmed that epilepsy care can be effectively inculcated into the primary health care in low income countries with increased service coverage from 14.5 per cent to 38.3 per cent, at the end of the project, and people with epilepsy reporting significant improvement in their quality of life.
Ghana s fight against epilepsy initiative demonstrates that there are simple cost effective ways to treat epilepsy with little resources at community level.
The Deputy Minister commended the project team for their commitment to the project and the confidence they have given the nation to reduce gabs in epilepsy treatment and extend its management to other countries, and commended the WHO and DFID for supporting the project, which would significantly improve access to high quality care to reduce the huge gab in its treatment.
Dr Owen Kaluwa, WHO, Country representative to Ghana said epilepsy is the most common serious brain disorder worldwide, and despite being one of the world’s oldest known medical conditions, public fear and misunderstanding about it persists, making people reluctant to talk about it.
He said the reluctance leads to lives lived in the shadows, discrimination at workplaces and communities, and lack of funding for new therapies and research, adding that, for such people, the misconception and discrimination can be more difficult to overcome than the seizures themselves.
He said about 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy and most of them live in resource poor regions, saying that, every year 2.4 million people are diagnosed with it, and in Ghana, it is estimated that it affects about one to two per cent of the population.
Dr Kaluwa noted that epilepsy can easily and affordably be treated with inexpensive daily medication that cost as little as US$ 5 per year and a majority of people affected can live normal lives when they get treatment.
“Epilepsy can be defeated if all stakeholders, including the government and communities put their efforts together to confront it,” he said.
He commended the Ghana Epilepsy Project team for their commitment towards the success of the project, which also demonstrates the feasibility of extending the management of epilepsy from pilot sites to the entire country.
He called on government to ensure to integrate epilepsy management into primary healthcare and promote community involvement in the management and social integration of people living with epilepsy, and also to allocate more resources for its care and treatment.
Dr Kaluwa encouraged the ministry to scale up the initiative to other regions and districts and improve the availability of antiepileptic medicines, which was a major challenge during the project implementation to those who require them.
Dr Akwesi Osei, Chief Executive Officer, Mental Health Authority, said the initiative was established in four countries worldwide and Ghana was lucky to have been chosen as one of the countries to have it.
He said the initiative started in 2012 and ended in 2017, and they intend to wage a war on epilepsy to the extent of eliminating or reducing its prevalence to the barest minimum.
He said in Ghana at the onset of the initiative, treatment gap was about 85 per cent, meaning 85 per cent of people who had epilepsy were not getting access to proper care, but the initiative has reduced it to about 60 per cent.
“We want to affirm that epilepsy is not a mental illness and anybody with epilepsy is not mad and does not necessarily have mental illness,” he said.GNA