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IOM Report Identifies Public Health Actions for Improving the Lives of Those With Epilepsy

April 6, 2012

IOM Report Identifies Public Health Actions for Improving the Lives of Those With Epilepsy
Source: Institute of Medicine

An estimated 2.2 million people in the United States live with epilepsy, a complex brain disorder characterized by sudden and often unpredictable seizures. The highest rate of onset occurs in children and older adults, and it affects people of all ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds, yet this common disorder is widely misunderstood. Epilepsy refers to a spectrum of disorders with seizures that vary in type, cause, severity, and frequency. Many people do not know the causes of epilepsy or what measures to take if they witness a seizure. A new report from the Institute of Medicine highlights numerous gaps in the knowledge and management of epilepsy and recommends actions for improving the lives of those with epilepsy and their families and promoting better understanding of the disorder.

Effective treatments for epilepsy are available but access to treatment and timely referrals to specialized care are often lacking, the report’s expert committee found. Reaching rural and underserved populations, as well as providing state-of-the art care for people with persistent seizures, is particularly crucial. The report’s recommendations for expanding access to patient-centered health care include early identification and treatment of epilepsy and associated health conditions, implementing measures that assess quality of care, and establishing accreditation criteria and processes for specialized epilepsy centers. In addition, the wide variety of health professionals who care for those with epilepsy need improved knowledge and skills to provide the highest quality health care.

Some causes of epilepsy, such as traumatic brain injury, infection, and stroke, are preventable. Prevention efforts should continue for these established risk factors, as well as for recurring seizures in people with epilepsy and depression, and for epilepsy-related causes of death, the report says.

+ Epilepsy Across the Spectrum: Promoting Health and Understanding

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