Janice Buelow, R.N., Ph.D., F.A.A.N.
Vice President, Research and Programs

Philip Gattone
President and CEO, Epilepsy Foundation

Wayne Giles
Division Director, CDC Division of Population Health

Rosemarie Kobau, M.P.H., M.A.P.P
CDC Division of Population Health

The Epilepsy Foundation (EF) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have worked together to carry out multidimensional public education and awareness campaigns for nearly 15 years. While the partnership predates the 2012 Institute of Medicine Report (IOM) Epilepsy Across the Spectrum; Promoting Health and Understanding, [1] our work together responds to the report’s recommendations emphasizing (1) that many health professionals still need education about epilepsy; (2) that education efforts for people with epilepsy and their families should be thorough and incorporate health literacy and cultural considerations; and (3) that the stigma of epilepsy must be eliminated. In this issue we present an article that describes public health campaigns on epilepsy over the years. The campaigns have been tailored to youth, young adults, African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians, with and without epilepsy. Key campaign messages were initially communicated via traditional mass media channels (print advertisements, radio), and later via electronic media, the Internet, and a full array of social media. Though the article focuses on almost 15 years of public awareness campaigns ending in 2013, activities continue into the present to remain vigilant in supporting and reinforcing public awareness about epilepsy. For example, in late 2013, a campaign addressing first aid in epilepsy was launched through the use of Facebook and Twitter that reached more than 650,000 people nationwide. Public personalities, celebrities and trusted medical professionals have participated in increasing understanding and promoting greater acceptance of epilepsy by serving as spokespersons and supporters for those with the disorder. Further, EF partnerships with regional EF affiliates, corporations, professional organizations and academic institutions also promote the mission. Continued collaboration between CDC and the EF will allow for additional social media campaigns as well as other innovations in outreach. This collaboration is part of a broader synergistic effort to mobilize national, state and community partnerships to improve the social environment and health outcomes for people with epilepsy.

The accompanying article focuses on accomplishments achieved during and immediately following these campaigns. It also underlines the need for new research to explore multilevel predictors of stigma (e.g., per-capita expenditures on epilepsy awareness campaigns) and new methods and approaches to combat stigma. Data collection throughout the duration of future campaigns is needed to help determine their efficacy in influencing outcomes such as sustained changes in the public’s knowledge, attitudes and beliefs about epilepsy, increased social participation, and ultimately improved health and psychosocial outcomes.

We are confident that sustained and expanded partnerships between the EF and the CDC will contribute to improved self-management improved health and quality of life, and reduce stigma for persons with epilepsy.

References

  1. Institute of Medicine. Epilepsy across the spectrum: promoting health and understanding. Washington, DC: The National Academy Press; 2012. Available at http://nationalacademies.org/HMD/Reports/2012/Epilepsy-Across-the-Spectrum.aspx.

In Epilepsy & Behavior; March 2015; 44: 238.

Reprinted with permission from Epilepsy & Behavior, Elsevier for Editorials.