According to the World Health Organization (WHO), neurological disorders represent the most serious global threat to public health. Epilepsy is one of the most prevalent neurological disorders. There are 50 million people worldwide living with the disease, which constitutes 0.5 to 1 percent of the world's medical burden. Approximately 80 percent of people with epilepsy live in developing countries, where the lack of neurological services, trained personnel and appropriate medications results in a profound treatment gap. In sub-Saharan Africa 85% or more of people with epilepsy do not receive any treatment. And yet 70% of these epileptics could be seizure free and lead normal lives with medical treatment. This represents a staggering source of disability, and creates a very serious global health problem.
The extreme treatment gap is due to a combination of limited access and lack of awareness regarding proper treatment. The WHO found that many individuals with epilepsy are predisposed to isolation, which can lead to a reluctance to seek treatment or to be misinformed that treatment is not available. Additionally, cultural beliefs and superstitions about seizures are rampant - children are removed from school, adults are refused employment, and the epileptic is ostracized by villagers and relatives alike. For this reason, world health authorities and organizations such as Global NeuroCare are working to increase the number of qualified neurologists in developing countries. These neurologists, whose numbers currently stand as low as one per 10 million people, will treat patients and advance public awareness to destigmatize epilepsy, teaching physicians, patients and their families how to properly manage the condition.