This events purpose is to raise awareness about coeliac disease, an autoimmune disorder which affects one in seventy Australians.
Coeliac disease is caused by dietary gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats, with symptoms often including abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence, diarrhoea or constipation, nausea, fatigue and rashes.
Targeted screening is the best way to detect coeliac disease, and once diagnosed, strict removal of gluten from the diet can arrest the damaging inflammatory immune response caused by gluten. However, currently only 20% of affected Australians are being tested, despite an increase in screening in recent years.
What is Coeliac Awareness Week?
Coeliac Awareness Week is an annual event held by Coeliac Australia between the 13 and 20 March. Its aim is to increase public awareness of the disease and to improve the rates of testing and diagnosis by medical professionals.
During this week, Coeliac Australia instigates publicity, events and programs to generate awareness of coeliac disease and the importance of testing, targeting those in the medical and dietary professions and food and hospitality industries, as well as the general public.
Coeliac Awareness Week is held in a number of countries around the world, and in Australia organisations in the various states and territories host a variety of expos, seminars and public events. For several years now, the theme for Coeliac Awareness Week has been “The Gluten Free Challenge”, in which people are encouraged to eat gluten-free for a week.
What’s happening in 2017?
Planning has begun for Coeliac Awareness Week 2017, with promotional posters and new online resources being released. More information about activities should be made available as it gets closer to March 13.
How can I get involved?
If you would like to get involved in Coeliac Awareness Week, you’re encouraged to participate in any of the events held across the country, or you can organise your own event to help raise awareness. Ideas include:
- Encouraging your co-workers to eat gluten-free foods during lunch times.
- Organising a gluten-free dinner for family and friends at a local restaurant.
- Running a coeliac awareness stand in a public place or at a health-related expo.
The purpose of these activities is to encourage people to think about the symptoms to look out for, the importance of getting tested, how foods containing gluten affect people with coeliac disease and the difficulties of trying to maintain a gluten-free diet.
Any event which achieves these aims would be beneficial during Coeliac Awareness Week, and Coeliac Australia has a range of resources and publicity materials on its website, along with electronic resources for doctors to assist with diagnosis of coeliac disease.