At any given time, as many as one in 100 Australians will have epilepsy. This equals more than 5000 Tasmanians.
Research has shown that people with epilepsy endure family dysfunction, reduced social and leisure opportunities, increased levels of anxiety, depression and low self-esteem.
The hope is the new telephone counselling service, called Epilepsy Connect, will help tackle some of those issues.
The Centre for Rural Health in the University’s Faculty of Health, in partnership with Epilepsy Tasmania, will design, implement and evaluate the program.
The Centre’s Dr Simone Lee said there is currently a gap in the evidence around the use of telephone-based peer support in the area of epilepsy.
“To our knowledge, this program is the first of its kind in the world and the University now has the opportunity to be a world leader in this research space,” Dr Lee said.
“From a research perspective, we want to know whether this service can reduce common comorbidities such as anxiety and depression, and improve a person’s overall quality of life.
“We will also determine the effect of peer support on self-management of the condition with a focus on common seizure triggers such as alcohol consumption, stress, inadequate sleep and lack of concordance with drug therapy.”
Research has shown that telephone-based peer support can improve control of type 2 diabetes, prevent post-partum depression, reduce distress among women with a breast cancer gene mutation, improve antipsychotic medication adherence in people with schizophrenia and increase mammography screening.
“We want to see what the research says about epilepsy in this space. Is there a benefit that we can add to that list?” Dr Lee said.
Epilepsy Connect has received funding from the Tasmanian Community Fund and is expected to be available to the community from March 2016.
Image: Minister for Health Michael Ferguson, Dr Simone Lee, Mark Fishwick from the Tasmanian Community Fund and Phil Baker from Epiliepsy Tasmania.
University of Tasmania