Food Allergy Awareness Initiative Targets Boston Region
Community Engagement Council at center of three-year plan to raise awareness and respect of the disease
McLean, VA (Oct. 17, 2017) – Maureen Lapus of Needham is hoping to help make strides in food allergy awareness and safety in the Boston region. Lapus, whose son, Colin, is allergic to shellfish and tree nuts, is part of a Community Engagement Council that focuses on local initiatives, led by Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE). The council is made up of parents of children with food allergies, adults with food allergies and health professionals.
It was a great fit for Lapus, who has been involved with FARE for several years, including participating in FARE’s first-ever food allergy awareness day at the Statehouse this past spring. Colin, 14, is also a member of FARE’s Teen Advisory Group. “The biggest challenge we have had is at school,” said Lapus, “I have been very active in helping the schools learn about food allergies.”
Boston is one of nine communities across the country that FARE has committed resources to in an effort to increase awareness of food allergies among the public and provide resources and education to those living with food allergies.
“Boston was a natural fit for these pilot Community Engagement projects because we knew there were volunteers willing to roll up their sleeves and help, as well as resources through FARE Clinical Network Centers of Excellence at Boston Children’s Hospital and MassGeneral Hospital for Children,” says James R. Baker, Jr., MD, CEO and chief medical officer at FARE. “It’s truly a community effort.”
All nine communities in the program were chosen because they are located in areas where there is a strong volunteer base and established clinical resources exist through the FARE Clinical Network. “Our hope is that there will be projects implemented at the local level that will serve as models for national programs,” Baker says.
The Boston council has put together a three-year plan, focused on areas of concern identified in a community needs assessment. Those areas are increased awareness and education in K-12 schools, increased public respect and awareness and increased education and support for individuals with food allergies at every stage in their journey.
Activities within the goals range from sending Teal Pumpkin Project kits to underserved elementary schools this Halloween to distributing boxes of patient resources to physicians and community health centers later this fall.
Getting out in the community is a primary objective as well. Council member Rose Ann Miller of Belmont manned a FARE table at Boston Children’s Hospital’s Allergy Awareness Day at Franklin Park Zoo in September. Miller, whose 9-year-old son, Leo, is allergic to eggs, mustard and peanuts, was delighted by the steady stream of table visitors.
“Many parents of young children were looking for help navigating preschool and elementary school classrooms,” says Miller. In addition, she says that many parents were interested in how to be diplomatic and informative when dealing with family members who ignore food allergies. “Having nine years of being a food allergy parent, and a frequent user of FARE’s resources, helped me steer folks in the right direction, however, there is so much more to be done to help families struggling with food allergies—whether it be at school, at restaurants, or simply at family gatherings.”
The Boston initiative isn’t geared just toward children. There are plans to provide networking opportunities for adults with food allergies and to reach out to area colleges. That is top of mind for council member Christina Westgate of Middleboro, a student at Bridgewater State University who is allergic to milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, bananas, and kiwis.
“After graduating from high school and watching my peers move out-of-state for college, travel to foreign countries to study abroad, and participate in daily social activities, I realized that my life, no matter what accommodations could be made, would be very different from my peers,” said Westgate, who plans to become an allergist.
“My hope is to promote awareness specifically on college campuses, so when the millions of children with food allergies reach college age, they won’t face such a stark divide between what is safe and what is normal,” Westgate said.
For information on the Boston initiative, contact Marie Malloy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) works on behalf of the 15 million Americans with food allergies, including all those at risk for life-threatening anaphylaxis. This potentially deadly disease affects 1 in every 13 children in the U.S. – or roughly two in every classroom. FARE’s mission is to improve the quality of life and the health of individuals with food allergies, and to provide them hope through the promise of new treatments. Our work is organized around three core tenets: LIFE – support the ability of individuals with food allergies to live safe, productive lives with the respect of others through our education and advocacy initiatives; HEALTH – enhance the healthcare access of individuals with food allergies to state-of-the-art diagnosis and treatment; and HOPE – encourage and fund research in both industry and academia that promises new therapies to improve the allergic condition. For more information, please visit www.foodallergy.org and find us on Twitter@FoodAllergy, Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest.