According to reports of the World Health Organization, there are around 50 million people with epilepsy in the world, including 40 million people in developing countries. Of these, 60-90% do not receive adequate treatment. There are around 9 million people with epilepsy in China, including 6 million people with active epilepsy. Moreover, there is an additional 0.4 million new cases diagnosed each year. A survey suggests that nearly 65% of these people with epilepsy do not receive appropriate medical treatment. A significant number of people with epilepsy and their relatives readily believe some inaccurate or erroneous advertisements or hearsay without any scientific basis; as a Chinese saying goes: “seeking medical treatment blindly in case of sickness”. This will not only delay appropriate medical treatment, but also result in great economic burden. Furthermore, due to the lack of accurate information and under the influence of traditional customs or superstitious ideas, they receive unfair treatment or even discrimination in respect of employment, education and marriage. People with epilepsy and their relatives, to various extents, suffer a mental burden due to fear or stigmatization. Therefore, epilepsy is not only a physical disease, it is also an issue of public health in China.
In late 2007, the Sea Horse self-help club of the China Association Against Epilepsy conducted an art and crafts competition in Shanghai for persons with epilepsy. The artworks created were both elegant and valuable, representing a fighting spirit to overcome difficulties faced by those living with epilepsy. The artworks were of very high quality and were showcased on the IBE website and at the 28th International Epilepsy Congress in Budapest in 2009.
In follow up to the art competition, a 4-week course in handcrafts, which took place in August 2009, also proved both popular and successful. Feedback from Sea Horse club members indicated that these activities were much appreciated and there was a desire for people with epilepsy to have a central place where they could relax and create artworks.
In response to this, the China Association Against Epilepsy has taken the decision to create an Art Studio for people with epilepsy in Shanghai. Based on the train the trainers model, the studio will provide an artistic environment for people with epilepsy and their care-givers. Here they will be able not only to learn and share art techniques, but to exchange their experiences related to epilepsy.
Through future planned exhibitions of artwork created in the studio, the China Association Against Epilepsy also hopes to be able to raise awareness and understanding of epilepsy in the general public, as well as improving the quality of life and self esteem of all those involved in the project.
The project will receive US$4,900 from the Promising Strategies Program.