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of everyone affected by epilepsy

"Global effort" needed for brain conditions

15 May 2001

Major national and international organisations need to be committed to research and patient assistance for the 250 million people worldwide with brain conditions, according to a report published.

The Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences, called upon major groups such as the World Bank and governmental and nongovernmental aid organisations to create a programme for funding research into neurological, psychological and developmental conditions, as well as making money available to aid brain related health care in developing countries.

The report states:

"Lacking proper diagnosis and treatment, millions of individual lives are lost to disability and, in some cases, death. There are other costs as well, both personal and economic, which are borne by the families of the affected individuals, by their communities, and by their societies at large. Adding to the tragedy is the fact that there are effective and affordable ways to treat or even prevent many brain disorders that remain unexplored in developing country health systems."

Amongst the other recommendations made are:

  • Increase public and professional awareness and understanding of brain disorders in developing countries, and intervene to reduce stigma and ease the burden of discrimination often associated with these disorders.
  • Extend and strengthen existing systems of primary care to deliver health services for brain disorders.
  • Conduct operational research to assess the cost–effectiveness of specific treatments and health services in local settings, along with research to monitor the incidence, prevalence, and burden of brain disorders in developing countries.

The report acknowledges that epilepsy affects 40 million people in developing countries, roughly 80 per cent of all those affected worldwide, adding that "...because of stigma and false beliefs, epilepsy frequently goes unrecognised or untreated in the developing world, and those persons affected, as well as their families, are sometimes shunned by their communities."