A study published in the New Zealand Medical Journal shows a lack of data results in diminished health services for food allergy sufferers.
Christchurch-based paediatrician, allergist and author, Doctor Rodney Ford, who is speaking at the Gluten Free Food and Allergy Show in Brisbane on the 17th and 18th of May, agrees with the findings of the study; 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, with 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 reluctance by some medical professionals to accept food allergies and more specifically food sensitivities as a cause of poor health, developmental delays or behavioural 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 ill child.
“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,” said Ford.
The cost of food allergies to the Australian economy is in excess of $7 billion dollars per year. The benefits 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 behavioural problems in children leading to better schooling and education, less stress on parents leading to more harmonious and supportive homes for children, and better adjusted children.
The Gluten Free Food and Allergy Show will be held in Brisbane between 17 and 18 May.
For more information contact:
Gluten Free Food and Allergy Show
07 5570 2375