Message from the President
“From out of the darkness
Our future will come
If we leave the past behind
We'll fly beyond the sun”
- Sir Paul McCartney
Sri Lankans are living in unprecedented times. Since 2020, the last 3 years have been tumultuous, with extreme stressors borne by the public and the healthcare system. First came the Covid-19 pandemic, followed by a downward spiral of Sri Lanka’s economy. This has resulted in restrictions in the provision of and access to healthcare services. People are struggling to buy food, fuel, medicine, and other essentials which has brought political unrest and violence.
Winston Churchill said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste”. What it means is that it's an opportunity to do things you think “you could not do before." In today’s challenging context, it is with this positive mindset that the new Council and I take the reins of the Epilepsy Association of Sri Lanka.
The EASL plays an important role in advocacy in epilepsy. Our advocacy priorities include:
> Ensuring equitable and affordable access to quality health care for patients with epilepsy.
> Ending epilepsy-related discrimination and protecting the rights of patients with epilepsy.
> Promoting public health, education, and awareness about epilepsy.
This year’s Council will endeavor to deliver on these priorities with several interventions and projects.
The challenges that need to be overcome are immense. However, a well-organized and planned approach will no doubt reduce the burden significantly. Thus, the coming year will lead EASL to focus on four main target groups, the public in general, patients with epilepsy, EMTs, and in-hospital healthcare workers including doctors and nurses. The interventions planned in these target groups will address social stigma, psychosocial issues of patients, seizure first-aid and pre-hospital care, and specialized medical and nursing care of patients with epilepsy.
Myths and misconceptions about epilepsy are still rampant within society even in the 21st century where information is freely accessible. Due to the social stigma that is prevalent in Sri Lankan society, education, employment, marriage, and social functioning of individuals afflicted with epilepsy is often adversely. The fear psychosis generated from social stigma forms a barrier that prevents patients from seeking medical attention. Myths and misconceptions are the root cause for stigmatization and thus need to be addressed effectively through systematic public education. The EASL will continue to educate the masses using more modern and relevant media. Our focus is to utilize more modern platforms of communication in effectively delivering our message to the community. Influencing the youth of this country is one of our objectives. We believe educating the youth is paramount in eradicating the stigma that is associated with epilepsy and thus our education programmes will be targeting this population.
The intersection of art and epilepsy has long been recognized, and it has been noted that epilepsy may expand creative or artistic expression. Several famous artists including Vincent Van Gogh, Charles Altamont Doyle, and Giorgio de Chirico are believed to have suffered from epilepsy. For a highly creative person, visual expression may be a preferred method of communication, and for many it can feel safer and less restrictive than verbalizing emotions. Research has demonstrated that art therapy can be useful in managing the myriad of psychosocial issues people with epilepsy may suffer from. It is in this line that EASL plans to use art as a medium to alleviate such psychosocial issues patients with epilepsy may experience.
Pre-hospital care of patients with epilepsy can be lifesaving and even reduce the number of hospital admissions thereby reducing the economic burden of epilepsy. One of the main objectives of the EASL this year is to bolster pre-hospital care by introducing education and training programmes targeting ambulance EMTs and the public.
The EASL has also planned theme-based educational activities focusing on medical officers who are attached to neurology units across the country with the objective of improving epilepsy care provided in these specialized units. The pre-hospital care education programme mentioned above will also expand to involve medical officers serving in peripheral units, with emphasis on management of prolonged seizures or impending status epilepticus.
I wish the EASL and patients with epilepsy all the very best for a bright future!
Dr Kishara Gooneratne, President EASL