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Dan Harrington

Building the food allergy puzzle: Exploring the perspectives and needs of vulnerable populations

Date: May 17, 2012
Times: 13h00 to 14h15 Eastern Time (Montréal)
Presenter: Dan Harrington

Food allergies (e.g. peanut, shellfish) are emerging as important public health risks in the western world, and there is evidence to suggest that prevalence is increasing. The first general Canadian study of food allergy prevalence, allergen labeling on packaged foods and associated risks was conducted in 2008-09. The research findings indicate that 8.0% of Canadian households have at least one resident with a food allergy. However, perceived prevalence rates exceeded 30%, far surpassing systematic estimates. While important, data collected as a part of the 2008-09 study came from a random telephone survey. As such, the data underrepresented key vulnerable populations in Canada including Aboriginal peoples, new Canadians and low-income populations and raise important questions about the prevalence and determinants of food allergies within these populations. The purpose of this research is to address this gap by building upon an adapted version of the original survey, administered in neighbourhoods with large proportions of previously underrepresented groups (i.e. low-income families, new Canadians, Aboriginal Peoples, and residents of the Northern Territories). Specifically, this research hypothesizes that allergic individuals and their families within these groups face unique, and poorly understood, cumulative challenges with respect to allergy management. To date, the data collection phase of the research has been completed (n ~ 10,000 households), and analyses of the data using logistic regression and multilevel modeling is ongoing (results are anticipated to be available by January/February 2012). By characterizing the perceptions of food allergies and related risks in these populations, this research aims to develop a more complete picture of the overall health, social and economic burden of food allergies in Canada, towards developing an evidence base for contextually- and culturally-appropriate interventions and policy solutions.