Response to Lack of Food Allergy Data in NZ
Media Release for immediate use
Wednesday 9th April 9:00 am
Dr Rodney Ford
Leading New Zealand Paediatrician and Allergist Response to Lack of Food Allergy Data in New Zealand
DR RODNEY FORD
Christchurch-based paediatrician, allergist and author, Doctor Rodney Ford, agrees with the findings of a new study in the New Zealand Journal of Medicine identifying a lack of data and services for food allergy sufferers in this country. However he believes that beyond a lack of resources there are also educational and attitudinal issues that further hamper the diagnosis and appropriate treatment of food allergies and intolerances, especially in children.
A shortage of qualified practicing allergists in Australasia coupled with an increasing incidence of food allergies, especially in children, results in a lack of access to allergy services for children and their parents. Food allergy is becoming an increasing problem worldwide with an estimated 10% of children affected at some point in their childhood. The incidence of intolerance or sensitivity to food is yet to be quantified, however it is safe to assume that it is significantly higher, perhaps another 10% of children. Allergies are the most frequently reported chronic condition in children, limiting activities for more than 40% of them. There are recognised long term behaviour and social implications for allergy sufferers. The perceived prevalence of food allergy is even higher with an estimated 20% of children adhering to some form of elimination diet.
Against a background of few resources, limited data and increased incidence is the compounding problem of a reluctance by some medical professionals to accept food allergies and more specifically food sensitivities as a cause of poor health, developmental delays or behavioral issues in children.
Doctors by their very training are conservative and require high levels of proof to accept new diagnoses or use new treatments on their patients. In many cases this is a good thing and ensures that patient safety is paramount. However in the case of food allergies, a lack of investigation and/or acceptance by a family doctor can place increased pressure on families already struggling to deal with an unwell child.
Empowering parents to pursue an accurate diagnosis for their child’s symptomology along with raising clinical awareness amongst health professionals as to the symptoms, epidemiology, diagnosis, and management of food allergic disorders are key to tackling this growing problem.
Dr Ford says “Food allergy testing is a simple, painless and effective means of diagnosis that should be foremost in a medical practitioners mind when treating children, as food allergy is so prevalent in our society, especially in children under seven years old.”
The benefits to New Zealand of having better resources and practitioner education in relation to food allergies include healthy children, a wider knowledge of healthy eating, less parental care of sick children creating higher productivity, less chronically ill children freeing up medical services, less behavioral problems in children leading to better schooling and education, less stress on parents leading to more harmonious and supportive homes for children, better adjusted children leading to less delinquency and youth crime, better adjusted teenagers leading to less criminal activity, less pressure on prison and psychiatric services. Savings to health, educational and social services could be in the billions if applied nationally.