Fourteen years after the first launch of the Promising Strategies Program in 2005, we took time out to reflect on the many successful outcomes: those projects that had continued to run successfully when funding support ended or which had grown and adapted into other initiatives. We also considered those projects that disappointed, by falling short of expectations. One of the biggest issues was the level of funding provided to each project. In our efforts to support as many as possible, the thin spread of funds prevented us from adequately evaluating why some projects were so successful and why others failed to deliver fully on their promise.
We made the decision to address this by selecting a lower number of projects, with a narrower focus in terms of the issues to be addressed, thus allowing an increase in funding for those chosen for support. We were delighted, also, to receive a grant from the BAND Foundation to support this latest round of the program.
We realised also that, for the future, we needed to take on board the new technologies that have revolutionised communications. These technologies provide cost-effective means of equipping both young and old with the training, information and self-confidence to play active roles in their society.
Equally important is the changing role of the patient in decisions made on their care and treatment. The call of the World Health Organization, the European Union, and social and political scientists, for a redistribution of power between patients, experts and specialists in policy and decision-making that concerns them, is also a huge step in the right direction.
The latest round of the Promising Strategy Program, which focuses on the African continent, is funding projects aimed at equipping people affected by epilepsy with the expertise needed to be an equal partners in all aspects of their healthcare, education, employment opportunities, legal rights and, in particular, in issues related to stigma reduction. Many African patient organisations are motivated to change epilepsy understanding on their continent. Unfortunately, the capacity of such chapters in Africa is limited, yet there is a strong desire by these member chapters to build their infrastructure in order to narrow the knowledge gap and to reduce the stigma and discrimination that people with epilepsy face in Africa and which often leads to inhumane treatment by society and even by their families.
Five projects, described below, have been selected and their projects are now underway, albeit with some delay due to COVID-19 restrictions.