November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month. Epilepsy, which affects roughly 2.3 million Americans, is a common, yet poorly understood, neurological disorder. The condition, which is in fact a complicated spectrum of disorders, can have a devastating effect on individuals as well as their families. We at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are committed to boosting public awareness and enhancing the lives of those with epilepsy, as well as their loved ones.
Last year, a group of 24 federal agencies and nonprofit organizations commissioned the Institute of Medicine to create the first national public health strategy for addressing epilepsy through research and action. The subsequent IOM report recommended, among other things, earlier identification and treatment of epilepsy, new measures to assess quality of care, and improved knowledge and skills for those providing health care.
Today, I am happy to report that a number of HHS agencies have already begun critical work to implement the report's recommendations. We are strengthening surveillance programs to produce better data for tracking the condition; developing self-management programs to help those with epilepsy better manage their health; implementing telehealth networks so that more people have access to epilepsy specialists, and advancing cutting-edge research in poorly understood areas such as Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP).
We are also expanding opportunities to ensure that more people with epilepsy have access to quality health care. As of January 2014, not only will millions more Americans begin to enjoy stronger health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act, but insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage to those with epilepsy and other pre-existing conditions.
We are grateful for the extensive public and private partnership that has been forged to commission and implement the IOM report recommendations and more forcefully address the impact of this potentially devastating condition. We look forward to continued collaborations to better diagnose, treat, and, ultimately, cure epilepsy.
Please join us in supporting Epilepsy Awareness Month.