Community-based management of epilepsy in Southeast Asia: Two intervention strategies in Lao PDR and Cambodia

Lancet Reg Health West Pac. 2020 Oct 9:4:100042. doi: 10.1016/j.lanwpc.2020.100042. eCollection 2020 Nov.


Background: Epilepsy affects more than 50 million people worldwide, 80% of whom live in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). In Southeast Asia, the prevalence is moderate (6‰), and the main public health challenge is reducing the treatment gap, which reaches more than 90% in rural areas.

Methods: This 12-month comparative study (intervention vs. control areas) assessed the community effectiveness of two different strategies for the identification and home follow-up of people with epilepsy by Domestic Health Visitors for epilepsy (DHVes). In Lao PDR, DHVes were health center staff covering several villages via monthly visits; in Cambodia, DHVes were health volunteers living in the villages.

Findings: At baseline, the treatment gap was >95% in Lao PDR and 100% in Cambodia. After 12 months, the treatment gap in Lao PDR decreased by 5·5% (range: 4·0-12·2) in the intervention area and 0·5% (range: 0·4-0·8) in the control area (p<0·0001). In Cambodia, the treatment gap decreased by 34·9% (range: 29·0-44·1) in the intervention area and 8·1% (range: 6·7-10·2) in the control area (p<0·0001). Among the PWEs followed at home by the DHVes, the proportion adhering to drug treatment was 85·2% in Lao PDR and 78·1% in Cambodia. The cost associated with strategy implemented in Cambodia, compared with the control area, was lower than the cost associated with strategy implemented in Lao PDR."

Interpretation: The treatment gap was significantly reduced with both intervention strategies, but the effect was larger in Cambodia. The results of this cost analysis pave the way for scaling-up in rural areas of Lao PDR and Cambodia, and experimental adaptation in other LMICs.

Funding: The study was funded by the Global Health Department of Sanofi and Grand Challenges Canada (grant number 0325-04).