Community Forum Addresses Disparities and Health Inequities Within Underserved, Racial and Ethnic Populations
SANTA BARBARA, Calif., August 28, 2023 — The Epilepsy Foundation and Cottage Epilepsy Center hosted an epilepsy community forum at the University California, Santa Barbara last week focused on the need to bring epilepsy resources, services, and support to Santa Barbara County. The Foundation’s chief executive officer, Bernice Martin Lee, spoke at the event and highlighted the need to address epilepsy-related health disparities in vulnerable and underserved communities, particularly access to existing and emerging epilepsy therapies, as well as epilepsy education and support.
“There is a pressing need to work collectively toward achieving health equity for those affected by epilepsy,” said Lee, a person with epilepsy herself. “One of our goals is to bridge gaps between racial and ethnic groups and address the needs of overlooked underserved populations. This involves collaborative efforts between healthcare providers, policymakers, community leaders, and advocacy organizations so that we can bring affordable treatment options to these communities, and push for policies that prioritize epilepsy education and de-stigmatization.”
Although epilepsy can affect anyone, it occurs more frequently in communities of color and among people with lack of access to care. Racial and ethnic communities represent more than 40% of the 3.4 million people living with epilepsy in the U.S. In California alone, there are more than 427,000 people with epilepsy.
Health disparities in epilepsy care and research have been recognized for many years, but seldom prioritized and even less often addressed. Social determinants of health, such as socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, age, gender, contribute to lower rates of surgical interventions, higher instances of medication non-adherence, and premature mortality.
“We are excited to collaborate with Cottage Epilepsy Center to bring an epilepsy awareness event to Santa Barbara County,” said Robert Ojeda, Western Region executive director, Epilepsy Foundation. “We hope this forum is the first of many other programs and partnerships in this region to extend our reach and bring much-needed resources, support and interventions to hard-to-reach underserved populations in Santa Barbara and its surrounding communities.”
While medical interventions are vital for managing the physical aspects of epilepsy, the unpredictability of seizures can have a negative impact on a person’s emotional well-being. Constant worry, anxiety, and stigma can contribute to depression and isolation. A person’s epilepsy journey requires quality epilepsy care, resilience and a strong support system. The Epilepsy Foundation is working to remove barriers to care, improve support systems, and increase referrals to community and clinical services throughout California.
According to the World Health Organization, epilepsy is the most common serious brain disorder worldwide with no age, racial, social class, national or geographic boundaries. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) estimates that 3.4 million people in the United States are affected by epilepsy. Epilepsy is the underlying tendency of the brain to produce seizures which are sudden abnormal bursts of electrical energy that disrupt brain functions.
About the Epilepsy Foundation
With a network of partners throughout the United States, the Epilepsy Foundation is leading the fight to overcome the challenges of living with epilepsy. The Foundation connects people to treatment, support and resources; leads advocacy efforts; funds innovative research and the training of specialists; and educates the public about epilepsy and seizure first aid. For more than five decades, the Epilepsy Foundation has shone a light on epilepsy to promote awareness and understanding, and to advocate for laws that matter to people with epilepsy, while also funding epilepsy research and supporting epilepsy investigators and specialists in their early careers. In partnership with the CDC, the Epilepsy Foundation has helped to improve access to care for people with epilepsy, expanded its digital reach and online resources in homes across the country, and trained more than 600,000 people in seizure recognition and first aid. The Epilepsy Foundation continues to focus on serving the epilepsy community through advocacy, education, direct services and research for new therapies. To learn more visit epilepsy.com or call 1.800.332.1000. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, TikTok, and YouTube.# # #