How Public Health Programs Support the Epilepsy Community

Epilepsy News From: Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Each year, National Public Health Week is recognized during the first full week of April.

Public health is a field that focuses on improving and protecting the health of populations through the prevention and control of disease, injury, and disability. While public health initiatives benefit everyone, they can be especially important for people living with epilepsy.

For example, public health efforts may help to prevent or lower the risk of epilepsy-related injuries. They also teach the public about how to help someone when they are having a seizure. Public health initiatives can also improve one’s access to epilepsy care and treatment.

Each day of National Public Health Week is associated with a health-related topic. Below, we’ve compiled information relevant to the epilepsy community for each daily topic. You can learn more about public health and ways to improve your wellness through our programs and resources.

Monday, April 1: Civic Engagement

Ever wonder how you can get more involved in the epilepsy community and help create change? During #NationalPublicHealthWeek, consider becoming an epilepsy advocate
The Epilepsy Foundation urges people to engage with lawmakers to advocate for important initiatives, like supporting Seizure Safe Schools legislation. By sending emails, tweets, and making calls to state and federal elected officials during key moments, such as bill voting or signing, anyone can make a difference on behalf of the epilepsy community.

Some other epilepsy advocacy priorities supported by the Epilepsy Foundation include: 

  1. Ensuring access to affordable, high-quality healthcare that is person-centered and physician directed.
  2. Ending discrimination related to epilepsy and protecting the rights of people with disabilities.
  3. Promoting public health through education and awareness initiatives about epilepsy.
  4. Encouraging innovation, the development of new therapies, and supporting research to better understand the causes, consequences, and outcomes of epilepsy.

Tuesday, April 2: Healthy Neighborhoods

Living with epilepsy can be stressful, especially if your family, friends, and the community around you does not know what to do in the event of a seizure. The people you spend the most time with, such as your friends and family, should be aware of what to do if you have a seizure at home, work, or even when you’re out having fun in your neighborhood. Encourage your personal community to get Seizure First Aid Certified.

The Seizure Recognition and First Aid certification training provides information to increase the knowledge, skills, and confidence in recognizing seizures and safely administering seizure first aid. The first aid procedures in the course reflect the standard of knowledge and current best practices for seizure safety. Participants who successfully complete the course will receive a two-year certification. The course lasts approximately 90 minutes and offers free CHES credits for health educators.

Wednesday, April 3: Climate Change

It's always important to keep potential seizure triggers in mind when living a healthy lifestyle. With changing weather in many areas of the world and temperatures rising, dehydration can be a seizure trigger for many. Here are some of our tips to help you stay cool in hotter temperatures:

  1. Limit sun and heat exposure. Plan activities in the early morning or late afternoon and evening. This helps you avoid the warmest temperatures in the middle of the day.
  2. Dress in lightweight and light-colored clothing.
  3. Drink water before, during, and after physical activity to help keep your body temperature cool.
  4. When temperatures are high, spend time in buildings with air conditioning, such as museums, indoor playgrounds, libraries, or shopping centers.
  5. If a person has extreme heat intolerance, wearing a cooling vest may be helpful.
  6. Listen to your body. If you feel weak, dizzy, or thirsty, find a place to rest in the shade. Drink water, tell someone (family member, lifeguard, camp counselor, coach, or friend) how you are feeling and take a break. Ask them to stay by your side until you feel better.

Thursday, April 4: New Tools and Innovations

We're always thrilled to celebrate the groundbreaking work of our Epilepsy Foundation Shark Tank winners. In 2023, the Epilepsy Foundation awarded $150,000 to support the development of innovative technology aimed at improving the lives of people with epilepsy. The funding will assist in the creation of tools and resources that can aid in seizure detection, management, and overall quality of life for those affected by epilepsy. The $100,000 prize was awarded to Dr. Angela Liedler, chief executive officer at Precisis GmbH, for EASEE™, a minimally invasive implant for bioelectrical treatment of epilepsy. The $50,000 prize was awarded to Paul Loomis, chief commercial officer at BrainCapture for its portable Electroencephalogram (EEG) device and platform to increase access to diagnostics tools for healthcare providers in underserved countries. 

In addition to the Shark Tank competition, worldwide renowned epilepsy expert, Jacqueline French, M.D., was honored with the 2023 Lifetime Accelerator Award at the Conference reception. Dr. French is the chief medical and innovation officer at the Epilepsy Foundation, and a professor of Neurology at NYU Langone. 

For the 2024 Shark Tank Competition, we are currently inviting entries for new ideas in epilepsy treatment and care. The winner(s) of the 2024 Shark Tank Competition will receive international recognition and compete for monetary prize awards of up to $200,000 to support the development and commercialization of an important new product, technology, or therapeutic concept to help people with epilepsy. The deadline for submitting a Letter of Intent (LOI) is May 20, 2024.

Friday, April 5: Reproductive and Sexual Health

Living with epilepsy and its treatment may affect one’s sexual and reproductive health. Although each person with epilepsy is different, there are some common questions and concerns among different age groups and genders about epilepsy and sexual health.

For women living with epilepsy, it is important to know about how anti-seizure medications may affect birth control, as well as if seizures can affect pregnancy. Hormonal changes may also influence seizures and their severity from puberty through menopause.

For men, epilepsy has been shown to affect sexual function and fertility. This can be a result of changes in libido from anti-seizure medications, changes in hormones, and can even be caused by struggles with mental health that affect confidence and self-esteem.

Reproductive and sexual health are also important topics for the LGBTQ+ community. Epilepsy medications can affect hormone levels and sexual function, while considerations such as hormone therapy interactions and fertility options are crucial. Healthcare providers must offer competent care, acknowledging the intersectionality of LGBTQ+ identity and epilepsy, and provide tailored support, including discussions on medication impacts, safe sex practices, fertility options, and mental health resources, to ensure comprehensive care and well-being for this population.

If you are a person living with epilepsy who has questions about their reproductive and sexual health, always reach out to your healthcare team to talk it over. Often, changes can be made to help you feel more comfortable and improve your sexual wellness.

Saturday, April 6: Emergency Preparedness

You never know when a disaster may strike, which is why we want to help you be prepared for anything. Whether you have epilepsy or care for someone who does, being prepared can make all the difference. Need help creating or updating your emergency plan? Here are some emergency preparedness tips:

  1. Medication management: Ensure you have an adequate supply of medications on hand. Make a list of your medications and dosages and keep it in your emergency kit.
  2. Seizure action plan: Educate family members, caregivers, and close contacts about how to respond to seizures effectively. Provide clear instructions on when to administer emergency medications, if applicable.
  3. Communication strategies: Inform emergency responders and support networks about your epilepsy and any specific needs or considerations they should be aware of during an emergency.

Sunday, April 7: Future of Public Health

In an effort to keep members of the epilepsy community safe in every environment, the Epilepsy Foundation is continuing to create and support programs that train public servants on how to respond when someone is having a seizure. 

We recently enhanced our Law Enforcement-Informed Training for Recognizing and Responding to Seizures (with support from Eisai) to help public safety professionals better understand epilepsy and increase their knowledge about seizures. The goal is to protect the health and safety of those living with epilepsy, especially when they may not be able to respond to a law enforcement officer’s request. The course was designed for, and with, law enforcement, public safety, and correctional officers, as well as law enforcement agency staff members. 

In addition to our Law Enforcement Training program, we also offer Seizure Training for School Personnel. This program is designed for people who work with children and youth in school settings. It provides an overview of seizures and epilepsy, seizure first aid, seizure action plans, rescue therapies, seizure emergencies and how to support students in school settings. This course is appropriate for school nurses, teachers, aides, coaches, administrators and anyone who works in a school setting.

Authored by

Kaitlyn Gallagher

Reviewed by

Alison Kukla MPH

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