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New Research: Tasmania’s Real Cost of Epilepsy – October 2019

Research released today by Epilepsy Tasmania reveals startling new health statistics and the significant burden that epilepsy places on Tasmanians.

The report Epilepsy – A Focus on Tasmania provides new insights into epilepsy and compares the situation in Tasmania against national and international data.

“This is the most comprehensive epilepsy research ever undertaken in Tasmania and provides a strong mandate from which to call for sustained and coordinated action to ensure every person with epilepsy has access to the care and treatment they need, and the opportunity to live free from stigma and discrimination,” said Epilepsy Tasmania CEO, Ms Wendy Groot.

“The research shows Tasmania has the highest prevalence of epilepsy than any other state or territory in Australia, with the figure expected to rise due to our older than average population, general rising life expectancy and an increasing proportion of people surviving incidents that often lead to epilepsy,” she said.

The economic burden of epilepsy in Tasmania is shared mainly between individuals and the State Government at a cost of $11.8 million per year.

“This means epilepsy imposes a greater burden on Tasmania’s health system than prostate cancer, and one similar to that of lung cancer and Parkinson’s disease,” said Ms Groot.

The report lists epilepsy as the second-most burdensome neurological condition to live with, after dementia. It also documents that people with epilepsy die at 3 times the rate of the general population, at the much younger mean age of 52 compared to current the life expectancy of 80 – 84 years of age.

In schools, epilepsy is now the third most common health condition (in the order of diabetes, asthma, epilepsy then anaphylaxis) and one of the top five avoidable causes of death among five to 29-year-olds.

The World Health Organisation reports that 47 per cent of employed Australians with epilepsy report unfair treatment in the workplace. But the Tasmanian statistic is worse, at 52 per cent.

“But we feel this could be good news,” said Ms Groot.

“The increase in reported discrimination cases is a sign that our public awareness campaigns are working to reduce the stigma of epilepsy and are giving people more confidence to disclose their condition and report discrimination – rather than an increasing amount of discrimination occurring.”

Epilepsy Tasmania’s next campaign will run during October for WorkSafe Month to remind Tasmanian workplaces of their responsibility to provide staff and customers with a safe environment, to learn seizure first-aid and to prevent discrimination. Workplaces can take advantage of a 15% discount on all training booked during October.

Ms Groot said this new research shows urgent actions are needed across Tasmania to:

  • Promote epilepsy as a public health priority to reduce its burden;
  • Improve public attitudes and promote the protection of the rights of peoplewith epilepsy;
  • Invest in health and social care systems to improve accessibility to epilepsycare;
  • Prevent acquired epilepsies through improved care for common causes;
  • Increase the priority of epilepsy for research agendas.

“I hope this report will re-energise and guide government, policy-makers and stakeholders to reduce the economic and social impact of epilepsy in Tasmania,” she said.