Minister launches Foundation against epilepsy
SOOF begins campaign against stigmatisation and discrimination
Nigeria recently took a major step towards bringing epilepsy out of the shadows and dispel the myths and stigmatisation surrounding it, as the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole formally inaugurated the Samuel Olafemiwa Oladehin Foundation (SOOF) to commence public awareness campaign against the disease.
Epilepsy is a chronic noncommunicable disorder of the brain that affects people of all ages. The Wolrld Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that close to 80% of the estimated 2.4 million people who are diagnosed each year with the disease, live in low- and middle-income countries such as Nigeria. Worldwide, epilepsy attracts serious discrimination and social stigma.
Inaugurating the Foundation in Lagos, the minister who was represented by the Chairman of the Medical Advisory Committee of Lagos University Teaching Hospital, (LUTH), Prof. Olufemi Fasanmade, disclosed that many Nigerians with epilepsy do not seek medical treatment due to stigmatisation and discrimination in the society.
“Epilepsy is a seizure disorder that has a lot of social stigma and for that reason quite a number of people who suffer from it will not talk about it. They will hide it until they have seizures in public.
“Nigerians should know that this present government is doing as much as possible to help all individuals especially those that have limited access to health care. There are many programmes that have been instituted by the Federal Government of Nigeria to take care of indigent patients and eradicate common diseases.”
The minister commended the Oladehin family for establishing the Foundation to assist Nigerians suffering from epilepsy and also help create awareness about the disease to prevent unnecessary stigmatisation and discrimination currently associated with it..
In a presentation, a Consultant Neurologist at LUTH, Dr. Agabi Osigwe described epilepsy as a chronic disease of the brain characterized by recurrent seizures. According to him, Epilepsy could be convulsive in nature, if associated with jerky movements of the body or non-convulsive with no jerky movements.
He disclosed that about three-fourths of people with epilepsy living in low- and middle-income countries do not get the treatment they need. Yet, he said, people with epilepsy respond to treatment “approximately 70% of the time”.
Dr, Osigwe dispelled some of the myths attached to the disease. For instance, contrary to popular belief in the country, he said epilepsy is not contagious.
“You simply cannot get epilepsy from another person. It cannot be contracted through contact with the person’s body, saliva, urine, sweats or faeces. It is not transferable by close personal contact via kissing, hugging, sexual intercourse, etc It is a non-communicable disease of the brain,” he told guests at the launching.
On how to handle an individual having a seizure, the neurologists says what is required is to lay the individual on his side, put a cushion on his head, remove objects such as glasses, loosen tight clothing like tie, and don’t hold him down or try to stop the convulsion or put things in his mouth.
Dr. Osigwe disclosed that the seizure will usually run its course and stop so there’s no need to panic.
The neurologist also warned against forcing things into the individual’s mouth to prevent him from swallowing his tongue as it is generally believed.
“It is physically impossible to swallow your tongue,” he stressed.
“People with epilepsy have the same range of abilities and intelligence as anyone else. Some have severe seizures and cannot work; others are successful and productive in challenging careers,” Dr. Osigwe further counseled.
Earlier in his address, the Executive Director of the SOO Foundation, Mr. Olufemi Oladehin said the family decided to establish the foundation to create awareness and provide the right information about epilepsy.
“We had a sister who was epileptic while she was alive and, in fairness, there were a lot of misconceptions about the diseases and its treatment.
“It was quite challenging for us as a family. Considering the level of exposure we have now, we probably would have managed the illness much better.
“Our intention is to use the foundation as a platform for engaging those suffering from the disease and to reduce the level of stigmatisation which people with epilepsy suffer.” he said.
The family also used the occasion to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the death of their father, Late Samuel Olafemiwa Oladehin in whose honour the foundation was established.