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Allergy Awareness Week

Media Release for immediate use, 22 May 2008

Allergy Awareness Week

Dr Rodney Ford Calls For A Change In Medical Education To Address The Chronic Lack Of Specialist Paediatric Care For Children Suffering From Allergies And Intolerances

Disturbingly, the prevalence of allergic disease is not matched by an appropriate development of clinical services to support sufferers. Allergic disease and food sensitivity is most common in children who suffer wide ranging, debilitating consequences if not diagnosed early and treated appropriately.

The increase in food allergies and sensitivities is a worldwide phenomenon with allergic diseases being the most common cause of chronic illness in developed countries. But together with a shortage of qualified paediatric allergists, this creates a problem for our children who are the most common allergy sufferers.

Health services and medical education providers have failed to respond to this overwhelming need for paediatric allergy specialists. With general practitioners under ever increasing strain (to see a wide range of complex conditions within a 9 minute timeframe) sadly many of these children and their families spend years suffering unnecessary and debilitating symptoms. This lack of allergy expertise is bordering on neglect, given how easy it is to diagnose and treat food allergy and sensitivity once seen by an allergy trained paediatrician.

The reality is that in New Zealand clinical services for allergy sufferers are poor.
The overwhelming evidence of a growing epidemic of allergic disease amongst our children should prompt health care planners and educators to actively seek to address the growing demand for paediatricians with allergy training. However, this has not been the case and sadly we repeatedly hear and read stories of children being flown from one end of the country to another, their parents desperately seeking specialist support for their illness.

The absence of appropriately trained paediatric specialists, results in children being inappropriately treated by allergy naïve physicians. The risk to children of seeing a non allergist as their primary medical support may be an over reliance on pharmacotherapy with little probability of having appropriate triggers of their disease identified.

The lack of education and awareness means it is likely that a significant number of children with allergic problems are not picked up by any physician. Consequently they either tolerate the symptoms or are given ineffective over the counter remedies.

The special needs of these allergy sufferers are best assessed by someone with comprehensive paediatric allergy training.

Dr Rodney Ford is a Christchurch based paediatrician and allergist who has worked with families with food allergies and sensitivities for the last 30 years. As a world-renowned expert in food allergies he is a key note speaker at Auckland’s July 5-6th “Gluten Free Food and Allergy Show”. He is an informative and entertaining speaker who combines his experience and expertise with practical advice delivered in an accessible way.


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