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Allergy epidemic impacts more than one-third of NZers

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

At least one-third of New Zealander’s health is impacted by allergies and one in ten babies born in New Zealand today will develop a significant allergy related health issue.

Formal research shows that allergy rates, including food allergy, continue to increase.

New Zealand has some of the highest allergy rates in the world. Despite this data, there is a significant lack of funding for allergy services, yet the economic burden - productivity and medical costs - is growing.

Allergy New Zealand’s CEO, Penny Jorgensen, says: "There is an allergy epidemic and the health system doesn’t appear to understand or take into account the increasing complexity and severity of allergies. Too many families and individuals are left isolated to struggle with the consequences on their own, and at risk."

Professor Graham Le Gros, Director of the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research, says the government needs to acknowledge how severe our allergy problem is in New Zealand and the need for more research funding and resources for allergy support services.

"If we are to improve New Zealand’s allergy epidemic, investment and prevention of allergy early in life is critical. Without this, we are unlikely to see any significant improvement in allergy rates."

Allergies are driven by the immune system and late last month Professor Le Gros and his team announced a major research breakthrough which identified a unique type of immune cell that appears linked to allergic skin diseases.

"This is a huge step forward for us as allergy researchers. We now have a specific target for the development of new therapies that stop the onset of allergic disease," says Professor Le Gros.

Allergy New Zealand is the only national resource for allergy support, information and education for people with allergies, their caregivers, schools and health professionals, but they receive no government funding.

Penny Jorgensen says: "The lack of specialist allergy services throughout the District Health Boards is making the situation even more challenging, particularly outside of Auckland. In fact there are virtually no services in the South Island at all."

"We are also very concerned about the lack of progress with the new Food Bill which was first introduced to Parliament in 2010. The food service sector carries the highest risk for food allergy sufferers," she says.

There was extensive consultation over the Food Bill from 2004 and Allergy New Zealand is concerned why it is such a low priority for Government when the regulatory environment needs to be updated to improve the safety of all consumers.

To raise the profile of allergic disease and the health impact, Allergy New Zealand is launching their Allergy Awareness Week fundraising campaign on 13-19 May 2013.

With a focus on the 1 in 10 children who will develop an allergy-related health issue, the campaign asks New Zealanders to show their support during Allergy Awareness Week by painting 1 fingernail in 10.

Schools and businesses around the country will be fundraising during Allergy Awareness Week by hosting events such as fingernail painting morning teas featuring allergen-free recipes. Allergy New Zealand’s info pack and other free resources including recipes are available here, or to make a donation go to Allergy New Zealand.

Allergy Awareness Week 2013 is sponsored by HRV, Nilfisk and Freedom Foods - all specialists in providing allergen free options for allergy sufferers.

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