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Stigma Stops Incontinence Sufferers Seeking Help

Social Stigma Prevents Incontinence Sufferers From Seeking Help

Social stigma and lack of knowledge is preventing many incontinence sufferers from receiving adequate help according to a recent study conducted by South Auckland Health.

Just one third of the 280,000 New Zealanders who suffer from incontinence seek professional help despite the fact that in 70 to 80 percent of cases this condition can be solved or significantly improved.

The study identified many incontinence sufferers are unaware of the treatments available and have difficulty in identifying the condition.

Women in the study complained of mis-diagnoses and overlapping medical services. However, the study also noted that embarrassment, particularly among Maori and Pacific women, made the problem difficult to diagnose or prevented the sufferer from seeking help at all.

The NZ Continence Association, with the support of Kimberly-Clark NZ manufacturers of Depend products, will tackle this issue during Life Without Limits Week - a national education campaign - which starts on September 5.

The campaign aims to get as many people talking freely and openly about incontinence as possible. President of the NZ Continence Association Dr Roger Harris says he hopes the campaign will help reduce the social stigma attached to incontinence. "We also want to make people aware of the various avenues of help that are available to them."

One of the study authors, Dr Jackie Smalldridge, says key policy recommendations made in the study were that general public perceptions of incontinence need to be altered to remove the stigma attached, increase awareness and make it easier for sufferers to seek help.

"The study also identified that we need to make patients more aware of the avenues of help available and educate GPs about the condition so they can deal with the issue with the required level of sensitivity," said Dr Smalldridge.

President of the New Zealand Continence Association Dr Roger Harris says there are many people who have been suffering from this condition in silence for years. "Some sufferers are often to the point where they have become completely housebound. Sadly, they have been unaware that their condition is treatable and is not just an inevitable result of childbirth or getting older," says Dr Harris.

"Despite the fact we're headed for the year 2000 and now talk freely about childbirth, menstruation, impotency and a host of previously 'unmentionable' topics, incontinence remains a taboo subject for many people," he says.

Anyone suffering from incontinence can make a free and confidential call to the New Zealand Continence Association on 0800 650 659 for free information handouts, (or visit the website at to be put in contact with an appropriate health professional and to find out more about Dependc incontinence products designed to help people lead full and active lives.


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