Tamil Nadu’s Department of Health and Family Welfare has announced the formation of a Gastro Intestinal Patient Support Group coordinated by the Department of Surgical Gastroenterology, Centre of Excellence for Upper Gastrointestinal Surgery, Government General Hospital and Madras Medical College.
The objective of the effort is to raise awareness about health and illness among members of the general public. At present, the majority of the patients seek care only when their disease has progressed to an advanced stage and treatment becomes almost impossible.
There are common factors in this trend. An analysis by the department shows that the major causes are - lack of awareness about various diseases; misconceptions about illness; not reporting to a doctor despite having symptoms; self-treatment with wrong diagnosis; ‘Feeling shy’ to inform the doctor; not accepting a treatment modality; dangerous lifestyle modifications; emotional decisions and attempted suicide.
Many also have the fear of developing the disease when a family member has had an illness – which may not be true. In some situations they are not able to differentiate a contagious from non-contagious disease. Some of them are not even aware that the doctors could have something to offer whatever be the stage of the disease.
Given such an experience, the patient support group of the Department of Surgical Gastroenterology is inviting a wide range of participants beginning with patients, family members, friends, counsellors, social workers, journalists and, of course, the doctors and nurses who are involved in treating them everyday. All well-wishers who are interested in the welfare of the society are invited to become member – it costs nothing, the department says.
The goal of this support group is to meet on a Sunday, once in 3 months to start with where the members will offer preventive information, treatment options, counselling, and provide answers to questions. The goal is separate myth from fact.
The patient support group will provide medical support and enable patients to share their own experiences, which acts as a community support mechanism – when patients see for themselves that there are many ‘living examples’ of people benefiting from the right care, it raises their level of confidence. Media coverage of these programmes takes the message into the mainstream, benefiting the entire society. This will help the doctors in making early diagnosis and also prevention, says Dr. S.M. Chandramohan, the head of the department.
Here area few situations where the PSG can help:
- Mistaking heart attack for heart burn and heart burn for heart attack
- ‘Branding’ for jaundice
- Misconception that all jaundice can be treated with medicines
- Mistaking cancer for ulcer disease
- Ignoring difficulty in swallowing – missing a cancer
- Taking self-treatment as amoebiasis or Irritable Bowel Syndrome when there may be large intestine disorder
- Not consulting a doctor when there is problem in the peri-anal region
- Assuming that bleeding per rectum is only due to piles
- Not accepting a colostomy
- Considering cancer to be a contagious disease
- Informing them which GI disease could be contagious
- Informing them about the right diet and lifestyle
Anyone who wishes to become a member of the “Gastrointestinal Patient Support Group” can contact the PSG by email : firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Prof. S M Chandramohan, Professor and Head, Department of Surgical Gastroenterology, Centre of Excellence for Upper Gastrointestinal Surgery, Room 244-A, II Tower, IV Floor, Government General Hospital, Chennai–3.