Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, two chronic health disorders, are costing the nation $2.7 billion every year according to a major study by Access Economics, the Australian Crohn’s and Colitis Association (ACCA) announced.
Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are two debilitating conditions, collectively known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Common symptoms of IBD include abdominal pain, weight loss, diarrhoea, fatigue and fever, and lead to poor growth and development in children. Serious complications arising from symptoms can be life threatening. There is no cure. ACCA Chief Executive Officer Francesca Manglaviti said: “This study is a first for Crohn’s and colitis in Australia and reveals the enormous hidden cost of these debilitating conditions. The report shows more needs to be done to help ease the burden for sufferers, their carers and the broader community”. The release of the report, commissioned by ACCA, coincided with National Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week, and aims to improve knowledge and understanding of the chronic conditions. The report highlights that:
- The total economic cost of IBD is $2.7 billion which includes a total financial cost of $500 million and a net cost of lost wellbeing of $2.2 billion.
- Lost productivity accounts for more than half the total financial cost at $266.7 million.
- The estimated cost of absenteeism for people with IBD is $52.3 million.
- Costs to the health system are $79 million.
- 939,000 hours of informal care are provided to people living with IBD worth $23.5 million.
- The estimated out of pocket expenses for people with IBD is $35.8 million.
Latest figures show about 61,000 Australians are affected by IBD – 28,000 with Crohn’s disease and 33,000 with colitis, including babies, young adults and the elderly. IBD is most frequently diagnosed in people between the ages of 15 to 40 years and has a lifelong impact. The Access Economics report – a landmark investigation into the cost of IBD – shows that Crohn’s and colitis are more common than epilepsy and multiple sclerosis and their prevalence in the community is comparable to type 1 diabetes and schizophrenia. However, IBD receives only 0.1% of the total allocated recurrent health expenditure in Australia. The number of people living with IBD is expected to rise dramatically in the next decade. By 2020 Crohn’s disease will increase by almost 20% to 33,500 and the number of people with colitis will rise by 25% to 41,000, the report shows. Access Economics Director Lynne Pezzullo produced the report titled The Economic Costs of Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. Ms Pezzullo said multiple challenges exist to reduce costs and enhance the quality of life for people living with IBD. “This report provides a framework for a longer term national vision that government, academic and private sector stakeholders can jointly pursue to better manage Crohn’s and colitis. It is especially timely, given IBD is on the rise in Australia, so cost effective interventions can reduce the financial and wellbeing burden associated with the disease,” Ms Pezzullo said. The report recommends that governments and the private sector get behind community awareness campaigns, improve education programs for employers, provide better access to pharmaceuticals and health services, provide more support for IBD carers and fund research to improve the disease management of Crohn’s and colitis. Ms Manglaviti said: “People with inflammatory bowel disease often feel invisible and vulnerable – it’s a ‘silent’ disease. One of the main problems is the lack of knowledge in the community about Crohn’s and colitis and this leads to feelings of isolation and discrimination in the workplace. “There needs to be greater community awareness and education. In particular, we need funding for education programs for employers, as this is where the financial burden is most keenly felt. We also need to educate health professionals to assist earlier diagnosis and improved management of IBD,” Ms Manglaviti said. The report shows Australia needs to increase spending on research and provide better access to health services, including the latest drug treatments. ACCA National Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week was held from 18 – 22 June. ACCA launched its first ever television community service advertisement during Awareness Week. The advertisement featured an animated clock which was developed by a creative team lead by Marcus Coventry from the agency ‘White. Advertising and Beyond’. Marcus lost his wife Jenny to complications arising from Crohn’s disease last year. The advertisement may be viewed here.(Source: Australian Crohn’s and Colitis Association : June 2007)