“We undertook a study to determine a cost of implementing a national epilepsy care program aimed at using [WHO Mental Health Gap Action Program] guidelines to scale up epilepsy care and decrease the treatment gap in a low income, high gap country. We have used data from Zambia but the health system structure and infrastructural costs of Zambia are fairly typical of the region and may offer important insights relevant to other sub-Saharan African countries.”
Healthcare systems in many low income countries have evolved to provide services for acute, infections and are poorly structured for the provision of chronic, non-communicable diseases which are increasingly common. Epilepsy is a common chronic neurologic condition and antiepileptic drugs are affordable, but the epilepsy treatment gap remains >90% in most African countries. The World Health Organization has recently released evidence-based guidelines for epilepsy care provision at the primary care level. Based upon these guidelines, we estimated all direct costs associated with epilepsy care provision as well as the cost of healthcare worker training and social marketing. We developed a model for epilepsy care delivery primarily by primary healthcare workers. We then used a variety of sources to develop cost estimates for the actual implementation and maintenance of this program being as comprehensive as possible to include all costs incurred within the health sector. Key sensitivity analyses were completed to better understand how changes in costs for individual aspects of care impact the overall cost of care delivery. Even after including the costs of healthcare worker retraining, social marketing and capital expenditures, epilepsy care can be provided at less than $25.00 per person with epilepsy per year. This is substantially less than for drugs alone for other common chronic conditions. Implementation of epilepsy care guidelines for patients receiving care at the primary care level is a cost effective approach to decreasing the epilepsy treatment gap in high gap, low income countries.