The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have launched a new book that provides accurate information on epilepsy management, with emphasis on Ghana’s situation and the way forward.
Titled, “Fight against epilepsy; initiative in Ghana”, the book derived its contents from the report of a project the ministry and WHO embarked on to enhance epilepsy management in Ghana and to address the treatment gap.
An estimated 270,000 Ghanaians are living with the condition, but at the time of the project only 15 per cent of the number was receiving treatment.
Two thousand, seven hundred cases were identified during the implementation of the project.
The five-year project, known as “The fight against epilepsy initiative”, was undertaken in four African countries, including Ghana, from 2012 to 2016 to build on the global campaign against the disease.
It sought to improve the identification and management of people with convulsive forms of epilepsy in rural and semi-rural areas of the country within the existing primary healthcare system using community participation.
It also had the goal of developing a model of epilepsy care at the community level that could be scaled up nationwide.
The project further sought to help Ghana address the major challenges associated with the treatable health condition with the expectation to eliminate or reduce it to the barest minimum.
The components of the campaign included developing a strategy for delivering epilepsy care, training healthcare workers and volunteers, raising awareness and educating the public, particularly at the community level, engaging traditional and faith healers and strengthening, monitoring and evaluation of epilepsy.
A major challenge identified by the project was an 85 per cent treatment gap.
Other challenges included the lack of healthcare providers, stigmatisation, cultural beliefs, and the lack of adequate and accurate information on epilepsy, which were hindering people living with epilepsy from seeking or acquiring health care.
In his remarks at a ceremony to launch the book in Accra on Thursday, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Mental Health Authority, Dr Akwesi Osei, said in Ghana, it was estimated that one per cent of the estimated 30 million Ghanaian population were living with epilepsy.
He noted that the country had a treatment gap of 85 per cent before the start of the campaign, but it had been reduced to 60 per cent.
Dr Akwesi Osei attributed the low treatment level to a number of reasons, including the notion that the condition was not treatable.
“We tend to attribute it to spiritual causes, leading to patients going to prayer camps and traditional healers instead,” he said.
He also mentioned stigmatisation and inadequate health personnel and volunteers in the care delivery system for epilepsy.
The WHO Country Director, Dr Owen Kaluwa, said the project was delivered with financial support from Sanofi Espoir Foundation and with technical support from the WHO.
The Deputy Minister of Health, Mr Kingsley Aboagye-Gyedu, expressed the government’s gratitude to WHO for its age-long support to healthcare delivery in Ghana.
The Chairman of the occasion and spokesperson for the National Chief Imam, Sheikh Aremeyaw Shaibu, called on families, communities and the general public to show love and care to people living with epilepsy.