WHO Resolution on the Global Burden of Epilepsy

Tuesday 26 May, 2015, will be remembered as a historical date for all of us. On that date, the World Health Assembly approved the WHO Resolution on the Global Burden of Epilepsy.

In February 2015, the Executive Board of the World Health Organization unanimously approved a strong resolution in support of improving epilepsy care and research.

The resolution – Global burden of epilepsy and the need for coordinated action at the country level to address its health, social and public knowledge implicationsy – was formally sponsored by the People's Republic of China, the Russian Federation, the Maldives, Argentina, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Japan and Panama.

Approval of the Epilepsy Resolution by the World Health Assembly: A Historical Landmark

Tuesday 26 May, 2015, will be remembered as a historical date for all of us. On that date, the World Health Assembly approved the WHO Resolution on the Global Burden of Epilepsy, which calls for Member States to:

  • strengthen effective leadership and governance to address the specific needs of people with epilepsy, and make resources available as necessary to implement evidence-based plans and actions;
  • introduce and implement national health care plans of action for epilepsy management, aiming to overcome inequalities and inequities in health, social and other related services;
  • integrate epilepsy management into primary health care where appropriate to reduce the treatment gap, by training non-specialist health care providers and by empowering people with epilepsy and their care-givers for greater use of specified self and home care programmes;
  • improve accessibility to and promote affordability of safe, effective and quality-assured antiepileptic medicines;
  • ensure public awareness of and education about epilepsy, in particular in primary and secondary schools, to help to reduce the misconceptions, stigmatization and discrimination regarding people with epilepsy and their families;
  • promote actions to prevent causes of epilepsy, using evidence-based interventions;
  • improve investment in epilepsy research and increase research capacity;
  • engage with civil society and other partners in these actions.

How was the resolution developed?

The approval of the Resolution represents a major success for ILAE, IBE and their long-standing partnership with WHO. For some time, ILAE, IBE and their members have been working tirelessly to sensitize national governments about the need to set up a coordinated effort against epilepsy. Responding to these calls, the People's Republic of China took the lead in late 2014 by drafting a Resolution calling for a global action to be implemented under the umbrella of WHO and in partnership with ILAE and IBE. The draft received early co-sponsorship by the Russian Federation, and many other countries soon joined in expressing their support. In February 2015, the 136th Executive Board meeting of WHO voted unanimously to recommend that the Resolution be approved by the 68th World Health Assembly.

The level of support that the Resolution received at the World Health Assembly was overwhelming. Both at the meeting of the Executive Board and at the World assembly, a total of 43 countries (see below) made strong statements in favor of the Resolution and expressed their commitment to step up actions against epilepsy. Remarkably, 19 countries (see below) requested to be named as co-sponsors of the Resolution. Further supportive statements were made by WHO itself and by civil organizations accredited with WHO, including, in addition to IBE, ILAE, the World Federation of Neurology and Health Action International.

What are the next steps to ensure implementation of the Resolution?

The resolution provides a powerful tool to engage national governments into implementing effective actions to improve medical and social services for people with epilepsy, promote public awareness about epilepsy and allocate resources to epilepsy research. The Joint ILAE-IBE Global Outreach Task Force has already started drafting a set of recommendations to assist all stakeholders, including ILAE Chapters and IBE Associations, in ensuring that the Resolution translates into effective actions. Other planned activities include the organization of meetings and workshops to facilitate the involvement of stakeholders, including policy makers, and the engagement of national and international institutions in order to achieve the goals of the Resolution.

All these activities will be conducted in close partnership with WHO. Importantly, the Resolution calls for the WHO Director General to identify the relevant best practices to address the burden of epilepsy and to develop, in consultation with relevant stakeholders, a set of technical recommendations guiding Member States, in the development and implementation of epilepsy programmes and services. The Resolution also requests WHO to provide technical support to Member States in actions for epilepsy management, especially in low- and middle-income countries.

These are great times for all those who care for better lives for people with epilepsy. The Resolution is just the beginning – it is now our duty to exploit best this unprecedented opportunity. By working together, there are no limits to what we can achieve!

Countries that made statements in support of the Resolution at the WHO Executive Board meeting and/or and the World Health Assembly:

Albania, Argentina, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Benin (on behalf of the 47 Members of the AFRO region) Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Georgia, Ghana, Greece, India, Iran, Iraq (speaking on behalf of the 21 Member States of the EMRO region), Indonesia, Italy, Iran, Japan, Lebanon, Lithuania, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Nepal, Panama, Poland, People's Republic of China, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Suriname, Swaziland, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Timor-Leste, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uruguay, Venezuela

Countries that requested to co-sponsor the Resolution at the WHO Executive Board meeting and/or and the World Health Assembly:

Australia, Argentina, Canada, Ghana, Georgia, Greece, Japan, Islamic Republic of Iran, Italy, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Panama, People's Republic of China, Romania, Russian Federation, Thailand, United Kingdom, Venezuela