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Continence awareness week aims to break the taboo

The theme for Continence Awareness Week in Australia, which ran until 12th August, was breaking the chains of incontinence. "Historically, incontinence has been a taboo subject - with people afraid to seek assistance and just hiding away," Federal Minister for Aged Care Bronwyn Bishop said.

"Yet up to one in twenty people are affected by incontinence, a problem that does not respect gender, class or age."

Mrs Bishop said Continence Awareness Week is an opportunity to make some of the facts about more widely known.

"Incontinence is not an inevitable part of ageing - it is a health problem. It is important that people realise that incontinence can be treated - resulting in significant improvement in quality of life."

Mrs Bishop said in recognition of the problem many Australians suffer, the Howard Government is funding the National Continence Management Strategy to improve management of continence in Australia.

"I am pleased to announce during Continence Awareness Week projects worth over $2 million. The broad range of research and service development projects will provide a strong information base for future health planning and policy."

Mrs Bishop said that she has a strong commitment to improve treatment, public awareness, consumer information and choice for the 850,000 Australians estimated to have incontinence problems.

"Knowledge and understanding can reduce the stigma and bring incontinence out into the open and to raise awareness that, for most sufferers, there is help and treatment available," the Minister said.

Details of National Continence Management Strategy Projects commenced in year 2000:

> PUBLIC TOILET MAPPING

The Minister announced that a Public Toilet Mapping contract had been awarded to National Geographic Information Systems (NGIS), a Perth based company.

"The idea of nation wide maps locating public toilets has really struck home to many people," Mrs Bishop said, commenting on the tremendous community response to this project.

"This project will assist many people and their carers to regain the pleasures of travel, reducing the isolation and seclusion that incontinence can cause."

> PRIMARY HEALTH CARE PROJECTS

Three demonstration projects will trial and test models of primary continence care to improve the access, treatment and assistance people receive from their general practitioners, pharmacies and continence advisers in the community.

> NATIONAL DIRECTORY OF CONTINENCE SERVICES

The Continence Foundation of Australia (CFA) has been funded to compile a comprehensive national directory of continence services.

> WHY PEOPLE DON'T SEEK HELP WITH INCONTINENCE

A project to investigate the reasons why people often do not seek help with symptoms incontinence will be undertaken by Adelaide consultants, Jenny Pearson and Associates.

Mrs Bishop said, "It could be expected that people with incontinence would seek help, but we know that many are reluctant. Many women who have symptoms after childbirth are unlikely to seek advice. Many men are equally shy."

This project will seek information on the cultural, social and physical barriers to seeking treatment and will provide direction for future policy and planning about continence.

> RESEARCH PROJECTS

Mrs Bishop also announced three research projects. The first of these is a study on the prevalence of incontinence. This will be undertaken by an expert project team led by Associate Professor Richard Millard from the University of New South Wales, under the auspices of the CFA.

The second project will assess the impact of incontinence on admission to residential aged care. This will be undertaken by Jenny Pearson and Associates.

The third project, cataloguing current and recent research on incontinence, is being carried out under the auspice of Continence Foundation of Australia by Dr Wendy Bower, consultant physiotherapist of Sydney, NSW.

> CONTINENCE PRODUCTS AND WEBSITE

Flinders University has won the tender to develop an Information Guide to assist people to make informed decisions about continence products. This information, and the results of all the National Continence Management Strategy research, will be available on the Continence Website, another project (being undertaken by Learning Curve, an ACT company.)

For the full press release go to www.health.gov.au

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