The institute - Epilepsy project

IFMT hosts two initiatives on epilepsy in Lao PDR: the “Access Initiative for the treatment of epileptic patients in Laos” project and the “Domestic health visitors to Improve access to care for people living with epilepsy in Lao PDR” project (DHeVELoP project)

IFMT in collaboration with the Institute of Epidemiology and Tropical Neurology (ETSI) at Limoges University and the Swiss Tropical Institute (STI) in Basel, has conducted since 2013 several studies on epilepsy in Lao PDR. These studies have revealed that the prevalence of epilepsy in Laos is about 7.7 ‰. 52000 people are therefore estimated to be affected by the disease. Yet, this disease is largely neglected in this country where false beliefs, fear and stigmatization regarding epilepsy are still prevalent in the population. Effectively, treatment deficit is above 90%.

In 2008, IFMT decided to move from research to action by developing a program called “Access Initiative for the treatment of epileptic patients in Laos.” This program is funded by Sanofi and counts on the participation of local health authorities and Lao doctors (neurologists, physicians, IFMT students). This program aims to improve access to treatment for people living with epilepsy (PLWEs) in Laos. The program main activities consist of i) a plea to the authorities through the organization of scientific conferences and awareness campaigns for the population through radio spots, pamphlets and posters; ii) training of health care personnel in the provinces; iii) opening of an outpatient clinic dedicated to PLWEs in two central hospitals Sethathirath and Mittaphab; iv) the provision of antiepileptic drugs (phenobarbital, phenytoin, carbamazepine and valproic acid) in central and provincial hospitals; v) the development of guidelines on epilepsy in Lao language and vi) continuing research projects.

So far 114 health workers in six provinces of Laos (Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Luangnamtha, Savannakhet, Champasak, Sekong and Vientiane Capital) have been trained on epilepsy. In May 2015, about 150 cases of epilepsy were under treatment in the two central hospitals that have a PLWE unit and more than 500 have been screened and referred to consultation by trained professionals in the provinces. More than 150,000 tablets of phenobarbital, the first line antiepileptic drug, have been distributed. Several research projects have been conducted that have raised more challenges to face.

Research projects have shown that interventions at the community level are recommended to optimize access to treatment for PLWE. The program “Domestic health visitor to Improve access to care for people living with epilepsy in Lao PDR” (DHeVELoP) that stands in continuity to these projects and that is funded by Grand Challenges Canada and Sanofi since October 2013 aims to measure the effectiveness of a new primary health care approach conducted by a trained staff of health centers in order to improve access to treatment, compliance and stigmatization of PLWE. The target of the project is a 25% reduction of the treatment deficit, a 60% reduction in the number of patients and families who feel stigmatized, a 70% improvement in treatment compliance, and a 50% increase in PLWEs or their families income.

For information
Dr. Phetvongsinh Chivorakoun
Dr. Vimalay Souvong (vimalay.souvong@yahoo.com)
Tel: +856 20 569 842