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New Zealand turning purple for World IBD Day

New Zealand turning purple for World IBD Day

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of Crohn’s disease in the world and, in support, landmarks throughout the country will be turned purple for World IBD Day.

Approximately 15,000 New Zealanders live with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, two autoimmune diseases known as “Inflammatory Bowel Disease” (IBD). They are diseases that often strike those in their most formative years, usually in childhood and young adulthood, causing symptoms no one likes to talk about – diarrhoea, bleeding and severe abdominal pain.

World IBD Day aims to raise awareness of these diseases which can be debilitating, require lifelong medications and often surgeries and repeated hospitalisations. Unfortunately, there is no known cure.

On May 19 several sites throughout New Zealand will be turned purple for World IBD Day.

A recent study by the University of Otago found that the Canterbury region of New Zealand has one of the highest reported rates of Crohn’s disease in the world with a rate of 26 per 100,000 people.

“New Zealanders need to pay attention to this growing problem,” says University of Otago Professor of Paediatrics, Dr Andrew Day.

“The growing prevalence of IBD is concerning. Ten years earlier the rate was 16 per 100,000 people, indicating that almost twice as many people are now being diagnosed each year,” says Dr Day. “There is also an increasing trend in the number of children diagnosed.”

Dr Day says that while they cannot pinpoint the exact cause of this increase, there are a number of possible factors. “The role of diet, and the shift to more highly processed foods, is something we are examining.”

“Greater awareness is needed on many levels as often diagnosis can be delayed by months, or even years. A long period of time prior to diagnosis could mean many months of belly pain, falling weight and major disruption to daily activities, such as school or work. The sooner people are diagnosed, the sooner they can get on top of it,” says Dr Day.

“Making life more liveable is one of the goals for the patient organisation Crohn’s and Colitis New Zealand (CCNZ),” says Chairman Brian Poole.

Crohn’s and Colitis New Zealand gives people the chance to find support in the shared experience of what is, at times, an extremely lonely and socially isolating disease.

“Patients are not often open to talking about their condition,” says Mr Poole. “Our aim is to demystify and normalise the disease by empowering patients and families.”

“We are also proud of our connections with the international IBD community. The sharing of information and participation in research makes us feel very much connected and involved in the improvement of the disease management.”

“If people can take one thing away from World IBD Day, it is to be more sensitive and aware of those living with the IBD. They need your support and understanding.”


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