EFA’s Allergy Awareness Project: Raise Awareness, Relieve the Burden!
The EFA Allergy Awareness Project was launched at the European Parliament on 22 November 2011 with the publication of the EFA Book on Respiratory Allergy in Europe: Raise Awareness, Relieve the Burden. The book included a Call to Action, which has since been placed online to electronically collect signatures for an eventual European Citizens’ Initiative through the European Commission. We would encourage all patients, policymakers, medical practitioners, scientists and any other stakeholder with an interest in reducing the prevalence of respiratory allergies in Europe to sign the Call to Action!
Indeed, in most European countries allergology is not recognised as a specialisation and therefore respiratory allergies are often dealt with in primary care. However, due to low education of primary care physicians in allergy issues, patients often receive a late diagnosis and are not always given the appropriate treatment in line with the most recent international evidence-based guidelines. Nurses and pharmacists could also play an important role, particularly in promoting early diagnosis since both these health care professional groups see people at risk to have allergy earlier.
The Call to Action launched by EFA has two main priorities:
- To improve accurate and early diagnosis.
- To promote training in allergy for all healthcare professionals.
In 2012 EFA arranged for the translation of the EFA Book on Respiratory Allergy in Europe: Raise Awareness, Relieve the Burden into all languages requested by EFA members. Electronic versions are available for download and if you would like a hard copy we would recommend that you contact your local EFA patient association to request printing. At present, only hard copies of the book in English are readily available for distribution from the EFA Secretariat office in Brussels, Belgium.
To conclude the year 2012, EFA arranged for the first educational meeting with EFA members and their national delegations to promote the best practice example of the Finnish Allergy Programme in Helsinki. These are aimed at enabling EFA members to promote national allergy projects in their home countries, with guidance from the Finnish Programme. EFA members interested in participating for future training programmes (2014 and beyond) will select a maximum of 7 key national decision-makers and experts in the field of allergology to help delegations discuss national solutions, align healthcare and reimbursement policies and support appropriate disease management, since these cannot be addressed at the EU level.
EFA and its project partners finalised educational slides for EFA Members to use when meeting with policymakers and key stakeholders in their pursuits of establishing national allergy programmes across Europe. These slides can assist in persuading policymakers to establish programmes or to participate in the next FAP training workshop in Helsinki. EFA and its partners will also be holding a symposium at the World Allergy Organisation – European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (WAO-EAACI) Congress on June 26th, 2013 in Milan entitled: ”Patients with respiratory allergies Call to Action: Raise Awareness, Relieve the Burden.”
In the spring of 2013, an Austrian pilot project for pharmacists, the Allergy Risk Check, was initiated by EFA member Österreichische Lungen-Union where boxes of ARIA guidelines, questionnaires for allergy patients, guidance for allergy patient interaction and other useful materials were provided to pharmacies across Vienna. Since pharmacies are often considered to be a ‘first line of defense’ for allergy patients seeking treatment, the pilot project seeks to assure pharmacists are in the best possible position to assist allergy patients get the treatments and diagnosis they require to improve their quality of life. In the spring of 2014, the project has been repeated at the national scale across Austria. In addition, EFA’s Italian member FEDERASMA has replicated the pilot project in Vienna within Italy for the city of Genoa. The data collected from Genoa will be compared with that of Vienna to measure the overall impact of the pilot projects.
To encourage action among policymakers, EFA also finalized an Allergy Alert! Paper with partners UEMS, ARIA and EAACI. The paper was presented to DG SANCO at the European Commission in 2013, who then encouraged EFA to work at the national level in order to push for change. As a result, in 2014, support actions for the Allergy Awareness Project are being encouraged to EFA members at the national level through the dissemination of a lay version of the Allergy Alert! Paper to policymakers, particularly Ministers of Health and Education. EFA has also invited IPCRG to endorse the Allergy Alert! Paper on behalf of primary care with the other healthcare professional organisations.
In many countries, national chambers of doctors are responsible for deciding mandatory education modules in medical school, so the choice to include allergology training for medical students is not a clear action of the national ministry in each country. As a result, EFA members have been provided with tools to accompany the Alert! Paper in order to to meet with the national chambers of doctors and together work with them to discuss a potential solution to the problem at the national level.
Support for national allergy programmes in Europe also continues as EFA members in Bulgaria, Italy and Norway work with national stakeholders to generate momentum and create a basis for their creation.
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