Some 100 health care professionals (including paediatricians from Seychelles, Comoros and Madagascar) attended the NNIAContinuous Nutrition EducationThe Nestlé Nutrition Institute Africa (NNIA) hosted the 2nd edition of its Continuous Nutrition Education (CNE) for the Indian Ocean Islands on the 21st of June 2012 at the Maritim Hotel, Balaclava in Mauritius. Around 100 healthcare professionals were present at the conference to discuss the recent advances in the pathophysiology and diagnosis of food allergies in infants.
Over the last decades, the incidence of allergies has dramatically increased to reach epidemic dimensions,and allergy is now recognised as a serious public health problem by the World Health Organisation (WHO). There are almost three times as many children affected by allergies such as asthma, food allergies and skin allergies as compared to 30 years ago. Today, atopic dermatitis is the first manifestation of allergic sensitisation which affects up to 20% of children during their firsttwo years of life. Not only do allergies have a significant impact on the quality of life of children and their families; the treatment is also costly for health services because of their frequency and chronic nature. It is therefore of paramount importance to develop effective measures to prevent allergies.
In Mauritius, at present,there is very little data pertaining to food allergies in children. A study conducted in 2008 by Dr. Pugo-Gunsam and her collaborators at the University of Mauritius revealed that Mauritians are generally more sensitive to seafood and food products such as peanuts, soy and chocolate. Although symptoms varied,many survey participants reported not to always consult a doctor whenever they have allergic reactions, which have led researchers to conclude that there is a need for an educational campaign to inform the public about potential risks of exposure to certain foods. Other research studies showed that dust mites are the most common allergens that contribute to allergic symptoms all year round inpatients.
Paediatricians from the Seychelles, Comoros and Madagascar were present at the meeting to share their expertise and experience. "The Institute promotes science for better nutrition and we are pleased to host the 2nd edition of this Continuous Nutrition Education for health care professionals after the Seychelles last year," said Professor Roger Andrianasolo, chief nutritionist at the National Institute of Public Health in Antananarivo and Vice President of the Nestlé Nutrition Institute Africa.
The Institute was also pleased to welcome Dr. Michael Levin, distinguished lecturer and a doctor in paediatrics and allergy expert at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. Dr. Levin isa member of the Executive Committees of the Allergy Society in South Africa and the National Program on raising awareness of asthma. He is a member of the European and American academies of asthma, allergy and clinical immunology. He has morethan 30 scientific articles and chapters in the peer reviewed medical publications.
Mr. Luigi Peccini, the Country Manager of Nestlé Mauritius in his opening speech emphasized that this conference aims to promote a public-private partnership in the field of nutrition and encouraging sharing of scientific data that proves to be necessary to address the nutritional challenges caused by allergies. Dr. Chand Domah, Regional Health Director from Ministry of Health and past NNIA board member was the chief guest for the event.
Challenges in the Hospital Environment
In general, the prevalence to food allergies in the Indian Ocean islands is not well documented and there are an increasing number of infants who are diagnosed with cow’s milk protein allergy. The diagnostic test available in public hospitals in Mauritius is the Total IgE and treatment most often involves the elimination of the causative food from the diet. In Seychelles for instance, from clinical experience as explained by Mrs. Madeleine, food allergies arise mainly from egg, milk, peanut, seafood: seashells (crabs, prawns, bernique, lobster),fish (cordonier, carangue), wheat, pineapple, tomatoes, eggplant and spinach.The same treatment is also applied in Mauritius. In Comoros and Madagascar, on the other hand, the diagnostic tools are still very expensive and priority is given to treatment of malnutrition and infectious diseases.
Way Forward in the Management of Food Allergies in theIOI
Dr.Levin shared regional and international links on allergy education and training with the participants. The creation of an allergy society in Mauritius in collaboration with the allergy society of South Africa has been identified as one of the main step in addressing some of the short term challenges in the management and diagnosis of allergies in the islands.