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New Zealand's purple focus on bowel disease

ABOUT 130 people in this district have Crohn’s disease. There is no known cure for this inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and it affects the quality of life of all who have it.

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 today 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.

Each year approximately 39 people per 100,000 are diagnosed with IBD. It leads to symptoms such as diarrhoea and stomach pain.

Autoimmune diseases occur when the body turns on itself, in this case attacking the digestive system. Crohn’s disease can occur in any part of the gastro-intestinal tract (from mouth to anus). Ulcerative colitis affects only the large intestine (colon).

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 DayWorld IBD Day aims to raise awareness of these diseases, which can be debilitating, require lifelong medication, often surgery, and repeated hospitalisation.

“New Zealanders need to pay attention to this growing problem,” said 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,” Dr Day said.

“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 several possible factors.

“The role of diet and the shift to more highly processed foods is something we are examining.”

Crohn’s and Colitis New Zealand (CCNZ) is a charitable trust that aims to provide support, advice, resources

and information about Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

The organisation was established by individuals affected by Crohn’s and colitis, and medical specialists active in the treatment of these chronic diseases.

A major initiative for Crohn’s and Colitis New Zealand is its Camp Purple Live, a five-day camp for children and teenagers aged between nine and 16 living with IBD.

All costs to attend the camp, staffed entirely by volunteers and medical specialists, are underwritten by CCNZ and its sponsors.

Camp Purple Live is now entering its third year.