Chapter 1: Introduction.
Epilepsy is a chronic neurological disorder that is characterized by sudden recurrent episodes of sensory disturbance. It can lead to loss of consciousness and/or convulsions. The term “epilepsy”encompasses a wide variety of seizure disorders. According to the Epilepsy Foundation, it is one of the most common neurological disorders, affecting 65 million people worldwide and over 2 million people in the United States (Epilepsy Foundation; www.epilepsy.com). The prevalence of epilepsy is higher in the developing world, affecting almost twice the number of people in low- and middle-income countries than in the developed world. The estimated incidence ofepilepsy (adults and children) in high-income countries is approximately 50.4 out of 100,000 persons/year, while the incidencein low income countries is approximately 81.7 out of 100,000persons/year (Ngugi et al., 2011). Epilepsy in most forms is considered a treatable disease. However,according to the World Health Organization (WHO), up to three quarters of people with epilepsy who need treatment in the developing world do not receive that treatment (WHO 2012). Commonly cited reasons for this disparity include the high cost of drugs and drug availability. Financial hardship is also cited as a reason for treatment non-compliance in North American populations (United States and Canada) (Burneo et al., 2009). Additional factors that lead to non-compliance are difficulty interacting with the care providers and non-private insurance (United States) (Burneo et al., 2009). In the developed world, minorities have reduced access to medical care for epilepsy, but there is insufficient data to determine whether this disparity is a function of race/ethnicity or other closely related factors such associoeconomic status and education level (Bureno et al., 2009). People who suffer from epilepsy face numerous social stigmas and canbe targets of prejudice. Even in high income countries, people withepilepsy have reduced access to medical and life insurance and can be prevented from pursuing certain occupations (WHO 2012).