Crohn’s Disease Makes The Headlines
News spread quickly that Crohn’s Disease was going to make the headlines in the United Kingdom on Wednesday 18th June 2014. The night before, many who are affected were pleased to learn that after so many years their disability would be getting large coverage. By morning however as BBC Breakfast gave their report people’s emotions changed to anger, and rightfully so.
Crohn’s Disease, like Ulcerative Colitis, is a form of Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Both of which are chronic, incurable and have a devastating impact on somebody’s life. The original intention of the morning news report was to highlight the impact the disease can have on fatigue levels, one of many symptoms experienced by sufferers.
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Right from the off it was made clear by reporters Bill Turnbull and Louise Minchin this was not going to be the case. Instead the focus was on the rising level of cases of the disability in young people, from 5,000 a decade ago to 20,000 as of last year. It turns out the figures also refer to amount of people admitted into hospital for existing Crohn’s Disease, not just new cases. What further arrogated viewers was their claim that “Doctors say junk food and too many antibiotics could be responsible”.
The video which was shown was definitely mixed. On a positive note there was a story from nineteen year old Liam Ruff. He has suffered from Crohn’s Disease from his early teens and had an ileostomy at the age of seventeen. From his story you can grasp that Crohn’s Disease is much more than just abdominal pains, fatigue and weight loss. So thank you for sharing your story Liam. You are a brave fighter.
Unfortunately this seemed to be overshadowed from the bias claim from consultant gastroenterologist Doctor Sally Mitton. She said there are “several factors that may contribute.” Interestingly she only focused on one, lifestyle. She assumes having lots of junk food in your diet prior to your diagnosis and lots of antibiotics in your early years increases your chances of getting the disease. It is quite possible that her segment was edited as she did not seem to talk about the other possible contributing factors. Then again perhaps not. Whilst this may have been done to get a good story for journalists, it is insulting to sufferers as it implies their pain is self-inflicted. This is certainly dangerous as it can cause a backlash, which we now know has.
The first signs of backlash started as soon as they returned to the studio. It is shown on the shocked faces of David Barker and Rachel Flint, who thought they were going to be talking about fatigue and had no idea the bulletin was going to be focused on junk food and antibiotics. David Barker, who is the CEO of the charity Crohn’s and Colitis UK, tried to clarify that Crohn’s Disease is incurable and has no known cause as of yet. Whereas Rachel Flint, a fellow blogger and sufferer of the condition, stood her own ground by completely disagreeing with the assumptions by saying she has always had a healthy diet. She also discussed the big impact Crohn’s Disease has had on her life, from deep fear to extreme exhaustion.
You can read more on Rachel Flint’s reaction to the news story on her excellent blog article right here:
The problem with misinformed news reports is that they cause hundreds more to be born. Throughout Wednesday and beyond there have been television and radio reports and newspapers, all focusing on the assumption that Crohn’s Disease seems to be caused by junk food and antibiotics. This is not helpful as those who have never heard of the condition before will now take this as completely factual.
So it is kind of no surprise why there has been so much outrage. From complaints issued to the BBC, to loud voices being raised on social networking sites, to news reports arguing back, to letters being written to Doctor Mitton, to blogging articles like mine, all which are trying to fight the fight.
On a personal level I am deeply disappointed. When you suffer from any form of disability you want others to be aware of it so you can fix the rift between two parties; the sufferers and those not affected. By publishing inaccurate information you can cause the rift to grow.
The assumptions seem wrong to me. My first signs of Crohn’s Disease were at the age of nine. I can assure you that prior to this my diet was good and I had no antibiotics. My case is not an anomaly. It is one of thousands. There are even cases of people as young as one being diagnosed. Do you think they would be fed burgers? No. So to automatically assume junk food and antibiotics is invalid. Each case is different so to categorise us all in one way is insulting and belittling.
Is Crohn’s Disease caused by junk food? I doubt it…
Do not forget there are many other possible causes, from genetics to the immune system, to environmental factors. None of which are completely certain. So it is wrong to go around jumping to conclusions before you have the correct scientific evidence to show the world.
That nursery rhyme is in fact wrong. Yes sticks and stones will break my bones, but words can also hurt me. So let us all keep fighting the fight and hope one day the world is properly informed of our conditions. Thanks everyone and stay strong!