African Americans are more likely to be diagnosed with epilepsy than Caucasians and more likely to experience medical emergencies related to epilepsy. For many African Americans, stigma and access to appropriate care are major concerns. Read more about the resources and information we provide to help make a difference for African Americans living with epilepsy.
Seizures and Epilepsy in the African American Community
According to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 578,000 African Americans have epilepsy or a seizure disorder. Over 25,000 African Americans are diagnosed with seizures or epilepsy each year. In fact, African Americans are more likely to be diagnosed with epilepsy than White Americans*. This is due to several contributing factors, such as strokes.
In addition, African Americans are also:
- More likely to be diagnosed with epilepsy in an emergency room than White Americans*
- More likely to develop epilepsy during their lifetime than White Americans*
- More likely to experience a seizure which continues for five minutes or more without stopping (status epilepticus)
- At an increased risk for Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP)
While African Americans with seizures and epilepsy are more likely to experience the critical issues mentioned above, they are less likely to experience active epilepsy than White Americans.* This means, African Americans are more likely to have seizures that are controlled by medication.
"An estimated 25,000 African Americans are diagnosed with a new case of epilepsy each year in the U.S."
Multicultural Outreach Program
For many African Americans with epilepsy, access to appropriate care is a critical problem. Fear, stigma, misperceptions, and discrimination are major concerns. These are often imposed by people who don’t know about or understand that epilepsy is a medical condition. This often makes it hard for African Americans with epilepsy and their families to live full and healthy lives.
Education is the key to changing attitudes and encouraging people with epilepsy to seek proper care. The Multicultural Outreach Program at the Epilepsy Foundation is seeking to make a difference through:
- Educating family and caregivers on seizure recognition and treatment options
- Increasing the awareness of epilepsy among multicultural and underserved communities
- Promoting inclusion, improving lives, and removing stigma
To expand the scope and reach of this program, the Foundation has established partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), the National Medical Association (NMA), the National Association of State Offices of Minority Health (NASOHM), and more. To increase awareness of epilepsy disparities among African Americans, information has been included in several Black media outlets, such as ESSENCE magazine, Black Press newspapers, and others.
Examples of our outreach efforts include:
The Epilepsy Foundation recognizes how important culturally relevant outreach to the African American community is to improve the quality of life of those living with epilepsy. Most recently, the Foundation collaborated with the American Stroke Association to increase awareness of the connection between seizures and strokes through the Strokes to Seizures campaign. This campaign reached out to African Americans as strokes are a major contributor to African Americans developing epilepsy and seizure-related disorders.
If you or your loved one is living with epilepsy, learn seizure first aid and encourage your loved ones to learn it too. Also, you can connect with the Epilepsy Foundation or a local office to receive additional resources.
Learn More:Seizure Preparedness & Safety
*References: National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) 2017 and National Survey for Children's Health (NSCH) 2018-2019
CDC. MMWR 2012, Nov 16;61(45):909-913.
National Research Council. (2012). Epilepsy Across the Spectrum: Promoting Health and Understanding. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
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