Epilepsy is a brain disorder, and although this disorder can affect everyone, it occurs more frequently in communities of color and among those with lack of access to healthcare.
Epilepsy is usually diagnosed after a person has had at least two seizures, or after one seizure with a high risk for more, that were not caused by some known medical condition. About half of the people who have one seizure without a clear cause will have another one, usually within 6 months. If there is a known cause for your seizure — for example, brain injury or other type of known brain condition — then you are twice as likely to have another seizure.
A health disparity
Approximately 1 in 26 people will develop epilepsy at some point in their life. Although epilepsy can affect everyone, it occurs more frequently in communities of color and among people with lack of access to care. According to a 2017 Centers for Disease Control & Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, racial and ethnic minorities represent more than 40 percent of the 3.4 million people living with epilepsy in America. But there is more beyond these numbers that people do not realize — inequities and health disparities exist among people with epilepsy, particularly in minority communities.
Health disparities in epilepsy care and research have been recognized for many years, but seldom prioritized and even less often targeted for change. There is a broad spectrum of inequalities that result from social determinants of health —socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, age, gender, and contextual conditions like neighborhoods — that can drive outcomes for people with epilepsy. These factors create disparities in hospitalization rates and emergency room visits, which may lead to lower rates of surgery, higher rates of medication non-adherence, and early mortality.
Awareness through practical safety and health promotion procedures of epilepsy are vital in communities of color. For years, the Epilepsy Foundation has partnered with the Centers for Disease Control to create and implement educational programs that address epilepsy-related disparities among racial and ethnic groups, neglected underserved populations, as well as rural and hard-to-reach communities.
The Epilepsy Foundation’s Seizure Recognition and First Aid Certification training provides families and friends of people with epilepsy a way to learn more about seizures and take care of their loved ones. The certification training, which is free and available through instructor-led live webinars in English and Spanish, focuses on the Epilepsy Foundation’s approved procedures for recognizing seizures and responding safely to someone having a seizure.
By raising awareness among minority communities, the hope is to reduce stigma and discrimination, and do our part to promote optimal health for all.