Helping doctors help those living with allergy

6 minute read

Meet Australia’s peak patient support organisation for people with allergies.

What is Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia (A&AA)?

A&AA is Australia’s peak patient support organisation for people who live with allergies.

The organisation receives funding from the Australian Government, and is a national, not-for-profit organisation that assists people with the management of allergic disease. A registered charity, we have existed since 1993 and are recognised as a Health Peak Advisory Body by the Australian Government Department of Health.

What do we do?

A&AA provides evidence-based information, resources and services to support children and their carers, and adults living with allergic conditions. We also support health professionals, workplaces, school and childcare staff, the food industry and government. Included in the service is a national support phone line and an informative website. The work of A&AA encompasses all allergic disease, including food, insect and drug allergy; atopic eczema; allergic rhinitis and allergic asthma.

How can we help your patients?

A severe allergy diagnosis brings uncertainty. A&AA provides support to people who have an allergy diagnosis or feel that they may have an allergy. We support people through phone, email, social media or face-to-face contact. We receive approximately 1,800 requests for help a year. About 85% of those that reach out to us need a health educator to assist with their enquiry. Many of these cases require follow-up calls and this results in more than 1,000 emails, phone calls and private messages a month. Our quarterly electronic newsletters keep A&AA subscribers (including health professionals) informed on current allergy news, research, new resources, helpful information to reduce the risk of anaphylaxis in everyday life and more. Our subscribers also receive allergen-related food recalls for foods found to contain an undeclared allergen – such as milk, egg or peanut – direct to their inbox.

Why do GPs and specialists refer patients to us?

A diagnosis of food allergy is very overwhelming for the person with the allergy as well as their carers and family. It can be difficult for them to know how to navigate their way through the many lifestyle changes required if one lives with a food allergy. Not only do they need to learn how to use an adrenaline injector, they also need to know when to use it and to remember to carry it with them at all times. They must understand what foods contain their allergen (for example, salami often contains milk), and how to read ingredient labels at the supermarket. They need to liaise with their school or workplace to ensure they have risk minimisation strategies in place to help them avoid their allergen. They need guidance around how to eat out safely at restaurants, cafés and the like. Consultation with a dietitian may be required to ensure they have a healthy diet, especially if they have multiple food allergies.

There is a lot of anxiety and stress associated with a diagnosis of food allergy. It can be difficult for a GP or specialist to find the time to address all these issues, which is why referring patients to A&AA can be helpful. Also, many GPs do not feel adequately equipped to address all these issues – TKW Health conducted research on behalf of A&AA in March 2019 that showed 74% of GPs would like a better understanding of food allergy. We can spend time with patients and provide them with appropriate advice and resources so they can safely and confidently manage their allergies while maintaining an optimal quality of life.

Why should your patients trust A&AA?

A&AA is supported by a medical advisory board comprised of both paediatric and adult clinical immunology/allergy specialists, and we employ experienced, allergy-trained health professionals including registered nurses, dietitians and a GP.

In a world first, A&AA works in partnership with the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) and, along with key stakeholders, launched the National Allergy Strategy in 2015. The mission of the National Allergy Strategy is “to improve the health and quality of life of Australians with allergic disease and minimise the burden of allergic disease on individuals, their carers, healthcare services and the community”. Some of the projects of the National Allergy Strategy include:

What other services do we offer?

A&AA is represented on more than 35 state and federal government, as well as international, working parties and collaborations. These include Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), the World Health Organisation (WHO), Allergen Collaboration, Codex, the Allergen Bureau, the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC), the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and Consumer Healthcare Products Australia.

Through information gathered from our 7,000 subscribers and 60,000 social media followers, A&AA is able to collate data and information that is valuable in consultation with government and other agencies.

A&AA has been involved in 10 coronial investigations in Australia into deaths from food anaphylaxis. In several of these, A&AA has been called as an expert witness. These investigations have helped inform the work of A&AA and improve management and safety in the Australian community. Furthermore, A&AA provides information and support to those who have lost loved ones as a result of anaphylaxis.

A&AA has attended and presented at many health professional workshops, seminars and conferences including the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy, Australian Paediatric Society, Healthed, Australian School Nurses Association, Child and Maternal Child Health Nurses Australia and the Australia Association for Adolescent Health – to name just a few.  

A&AA in the future

In the coming year, A&AA will continue to work to support those living with allergic disease to improve their quality of life through education while continuing to advocate for timely access to quality, affordable care.

We will continue in our plight to improve education of the broader community – healthcare, workplace, education settings and food industry – to increase safety. We will continue our advocacy for further research to better understand allergy prevention, diagnosis, treatment and the psychological impact as well as improved allergen labelling, safer food service, access to adrenaline injectors, and new medications/treatments and other priority needs.

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