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300,000 Residents In Ghana Are Epileptic — Epileptologist

Source The Ghana Report

An epileptologist at the University of Ghana, Legon, Prof. Patrick Adjei, has revealed that 300,000 people in Ghana are epileptic.

He was particularly concerned that most people do not know they have epilepsy, as diagnoses are not correctly done in the country.

He made this known at an intersectoral global action plan on epilepsy and neurological disorders and a strengthening public health program organised by the World Health Organization (WHO) in Accra, Ghana.

What is epilepsy

Epilepsy is a brain disorder that causes recurring, unprovoked seizures. It may result from a genetic disorder or an acquired brain injury, such as trauma or stroke.

Seizures are sudden surges of abnormal and excessive electrical activity in your brain and can affect how you appear or act. Where and how the seizure presents itself can have profound effects.

During a seizure, a person experiences abnormal behaviour, symptoms and sensations, sometimes including loss of consciousness.

It is usually treated by medication and, in some cases, surgery, devices or dietary changes.

In Ghana, the prevalence is estimated to be 10 out of 1000 people, and mortality is three to six times higher for people with epilepsy than in the general population due to the risk they are exposed to.

It is estimated that, globally, about 50 million people suffer from the disorder.

Out of that number, 80 per cent live in low and middle-income countries where, according to the WHO, only one out of four had access to treatment.

Focus

According to Prof. Adjei, although health authorities were focusing on convulsive epilepsy, there were other forms of epilepsy which were non-convulsive, including staring, repetitive blinking, chewing, swallowing and automatism.

Others were coma, prolonged apnea, cardiac arrest, dementia and higher brain dysfunction, he said.

Non-convulsive epilepsy, he added, represented a considerable burden in prevalence which, if not treated, interfered significantly with a person’s functioning.

He said there were two principal deficits in the knowledge of the burden of the disease in the country — seizures because they were easy to detect and no data on the prevalence of the disease in the urban environment.

He said those placed a huge burden on the country, which had little capacity to care for people with mental health and neurological disorders.

Pro. Adjei is also a team member of the country’s Epilepsy Pathway Innovation in Africa (EPInA) project, which aims to improve the quality of life of people with epilepsy in sub-Saharan Africa by addressing all aspects of treatment pathway: prevention, diagnosis, treatment and awareness.

Between 2019 and 2024, the EPInA team is working in Accra, Nairobi, Kilifi and Mahenge to improve the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and awareness of epilepsy.

He said so far, there had been some awareness creation and diagnosis programmes in the Shai-Osudoku and the Ningo-Prampram districts in the Greater Accra Region.

He added that they were also working on improving care and the reduction of the stigma of people with epilepsy within the two districts.

The WHO Regional Advisor on Mental Health and Substance Abuse, Dr Florence Baingana, said 85 per cent of the epilepsy burden in the world was in sub-Saharan Africa.

She said stroke was the largest contributor to neurological disability-adjusted life year (DALY) globally and in all African regions, where meningitis ranked second in three out of four countries.

She said access to services and support, including essential, cost-effective medicines for neurological disorders, was insufficient, especially in low and middle-income countries.

The Head of the Health Unit of the WHO, Dr Tarun Dua Brain, said neurological disorders were the leading cause of DALY and also the second leading cause of death — 16·5 per cent or nine million deaths annually.

She said one in three persons worldwide had a neurological disorder at some point in their lifetime, while 78.5 per cent of deaths and 77.3 per cent of DALY due to neurological disorders were also in low and middle-income countries.

WHO Ghana

The WHO Representative in Ghana, Dr Francis Kasolo, disclosed that the organisation would continue to partner with the government to work towards reducing the epilepsy treatment gap in the country.

He said a ‘Fight against epilepsy’ initiative rolled out in the country between 2012 and 2016 provided treatment and care for more than 2,700 people.

According to him, the WHO had expanded its work on epilepsy treatment and care with the introduction of a flagship programme, the Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP), which he said was aimed at training non-specialist health workers to diagnose and manage mental, neurological and substance use conditions.

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