Epilepsy Care in Low-Income Communities: Erasing Stigma, Saving Lives

Epilepsy Care in Low-Income Communities: Erasing Stigma, Saving Lives

Three quarters of people living with epilepsy in low-income countries do not receive the treatment they need, according to a 2019 report from the World Health Organization. The lack of access to diagnosis and treatment increases the risk of dying prematurely and results in many individuals experiencing a life of stigma and pain.

Duke epilepsy experts and partners at Western Uganda's first epilepsy clinic in Mbarara will discuss how they established a clinic there and set up a system of diagnosis and treatment for children and adults with epilepsy. They’ll also discuss their work in other low- and middle-come countries, weighing in on:
• Challenges of providing quality clinical care
• Access to care and medications
• Cultural awareness and humility
• Barriers to treatment
• Capacity building
• Funding
• Recent research featured in the journal Epilepsy & Behavior
• Personal experiences and growth over their years working in the global epilepsy field

About the speakers:

Tony Fuller is the Associate Director for the Division of Global Neurosurgery and Neurology (DGNN). He was part of the team that helped found DGNN in 2014 as the first division in the United States dedicated solely to global neurosurgery and neurology. 
Dr. Fuller's research efforts focus on health system strengthening and development in neurosurgery and neurology in East Africa. Publications from this work cover expanding neurosurgery access, outcome assessments from international partnerships and interventions, and epidemiology research on the burden of surgical diseases in low- and middle-income countries. 
Recently Dr. Fuller's research has included exploring epilepsy in Uganda, where the focus is on health system strengthening using a multi-faceted research approach using epidemiology, health facility based, and community belief research for intervention and advocacy development.
Dr. Fuller's research efforts are in partnership with Makerere University School of Public Health, Makerere University College of Health Sciences, Ugandan government bodies (Ministry of Health) and other partners in Uganda including neurosurgeons, neurologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, and health care workers.

Dirk E Teuwen is the Global Head of Medical Sustainability at UCB, Brussels, Belgium.  Teuwen does research in Pediatrics, Epilepsy and Public Health. As Global Head Medical Sustainability at UCB he directed the design, development and implementation of selected sustainable strategies in several epilepsy initiatives in different African and Asian countries. His department worked with engaged academic partners, e.g., Duke University, Ghent University (Ghent, Belgium) or Peking University (Beijing, China); non-governmental organisations, e.g., Fracarita Belgium (Ghent, Belgium), Red Cross Society of China (Beijing, China) or Project HOPE (Shanghai, China) or supranational organisations, e.g., World Health Organization.

Deborah Koltai is a tenured Associate Professor in Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, with joint appointments in the Department of Neurology, where she directs the Duke Clinical Neuropsychology Service, and the Department of Neurosurgery, where in the Division of Global Neurosurgery and Neurology (DGNN) she directs the Epilepsy program. Since joining Duke 25 year ago, Dr. Koltai has authored 2 books and over 50 peer reviewed publications, and has mentored pre- and post-doctoral clinical neuropsychology students, as well as students in global health and medicine. In the past several years, Dr. Koltai has been invested in research to inform capacity building and infrastructure strengthening in Uganda. With the goal of increasing our understanding of the impact of sociocultural factors on epilepsy health care utilization patterns, Dr. Koltai led a collaborative research program to identify critical elements warranting policy and practice investments. Manuscripts in the special issue of Epilepsy & Behavior entitled, ‘The Intersection of Culture, Resources, and Disease: Epilepsy Care in Uganda’, identify barriers, misconceptions, and targets of intervention, and outline future directions for impacting epilepsy care.

Angelina Kakooza-Mwesige is a Senior Lecturer and child neurologist in the Department of Pediatrics and Child Health at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda.  Dr. Kakooza-Mwesige also manages the pediatric neurology and epilepsy clinic at the Mulago, National Referral Hospital, in Kampala, as well as leads the in-patient pediatric neurology ward in the same hospital. She is Chair for the International League Against Epilepsy for the African region. Her main research interests have been focused on pediatric epilepsy, autism and cerebral palsy.