Purpose: We undertook a systematic review of the evidence on disparities in epilepsy with a focus on North American data (Canada, United States, and the English-speaking Caribbean).
Methods: We identified and evaluated: access to and outcomes following medical and surgical treatment, disability, incidence and prevalence, and knowledge and attitudes. An exhaustive search (1965-2007) was done, including: (1) disparities by socioeconomic status (SES), race/ethnicity, age, or education of subgroups of the epilepsy population; or (2) disparities between people with epilepsy (PWE) and healthy people or with other chronic illnesses.
Results: From 1,455 citations, 278 eligible abstracts were identified and 44 articles were reviewed. Comparative research data were scarce in all areas. PWE have been shown to have lower education and employment status; among PWE, differences in access to surgery have been shown by racial/ethnic groups. Aboriginals, women, and children have been shown to differ in use of health resources. Poor compliance has been shown to be associated with lower SES, insufficient insurance, poor relationship with treating clinicians, and not having regular responsibilities.
Discussion: Comprehensive, comparative research on all aspects of disparities in epilepsy is needed to understand the causes of disparities and the development of any policies aimed at addressing health disparities and minimizing their impact.