Dangerous Bites: Cultural Implications of Food Allergies

If you have a chance, I highly recommend checking out this article about the cultural implications of food allergies in Asian American communities.  It was published yesterday by Grace Hwang Lynch, a Bay Area writer who I've gotten to know over the last year as she conducted research for the piece.   Her article is one component of "Off the Menu: Asian America", a multimedia project which also features a one-hour PBS primetime special.  Hope you like it!  

Five Fabulous Femmes!

Last night I had the enormous pleasure of attending the premiere anniversary gala held by the amazing non-profit, Demoiselle 2 Femme. If you're not already familiar with their work, their mission is to provide holistic services, education, instruction and training to assist adolescent girls in a successful transition to womanhood. Over the last two decades Demoiselle 2 Femme has provided prevention and education programs to more than 3,000 girls ages 13-19 in the Chicagoland community! Through their programs, girls are challenged and empowered to utilize critical thinking skills to make healthy decisions as they navigate adolescence.

I have long admired the work of D2F and feel so deeply honored to be acknowledged as one of their 2015 Five Fabulous Femmes for my research and advocacy. My fellow honorees last night were:

  • Darlene Hill, Anchor and Host of FOX-TV's Good Morning Chicago
  • Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Board President  
  • Elizabeth L. Corey, Business Lawyer at Foley & Lardner LLP & 
  • Katherine Darnstadt, Architect and Founder, Latent Design
Thank you so much Demoiselle 2 Femme for the TRULY FABULOUS work you do on behalf of girls and women throughout Chicago!

WBEZ interview this week on food allergy disparities within the Chicago Public Schools

As you may know, I have been collaborating with the Chicago Public Schools for the past few years on a number of research projects aiming to improve food allergy management within CPS.  As a result, I occasionally get opportunities to discuss my work, and the challenges schools and families face in keeping students with food allergy safe.  Today I was on WBEZ's Morning Shift show discussing childhood food allergy disparities within CPS.

You can click here to read or listen to the story (it's about 5 minutes long).  Enjoy!

2015 AAAAI Annual Meeting: Empowering Students with Asthma in Chicago Schools through Photovoice and Videovoice

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm headed to Houston in a few days for the AAAI annual meeting where I'll be making a number of presentations.  Here's a summary of my 2nd presentation, for those of you who want to stay abreast of my latest research.  It's entitledEmpowering Students with Asthma in Chicago Schools through Photovoice and Videovoice, and it reports findings from a recent school-based asthma intervention we carried out in a south-side Chicago school.

As you may know, asthma is a problem of epidemic proportions in Chicago, where childhood prevalence and mortality rates are well above the national average. The objective of this study was to partner with adolescents to improve asthma management and increase community asthma knowledge and support. To do this, middle school students with asthma (N=12) were recruited at a Washington Park school to participate in a 13-week program grounded in Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) principles. Students were given mini-tablet mobile devices to investigate socio-environmental factors influencing their asthma.  They did this by taking photographs, recording video Public Service Announcements to educate their communities, and implementing a targeted community intervention.

The major asthma triggers identified by students in their communities included air pollution, smoking and automobile idling. Participants demonstrated significant improvement in asthma self-efficacy and empowerment (p<.05).  Interestingly, their caregivers demonstrated significant improvement in their asthma-related quality of life and asthma knowledge (p<.001).  Use of peak flow meters (p<.01), spacers (p<.05), and asthma action plans (p<0.01) also increased significantly as a result of the program. As a capstone project, students developed and presented videos to peers and caregivers and posted them to a website to disseminate results to the community.  You can view these videos on my new website at http://www.ruchigupta.com/asthma-videos/!

2015 AAAAI Annual Meeting: Understanding Adolescent Food Allergy Risk-Taking Behavior

In just one short week, I will be heading to balmy Houston, Texas for the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.  While I'm there I will be presenting three of our ongoing research projects--two of which related to childhood food allergy and another which reports findings from a recent school-based asthma intervention.  Since I love you guys so much, in the next week or so I'll provide a sneak peek of the work I'll be presenting at the conference.  Today I'll start by sharing findings from an ongoing study entitled: Understanding Risk-Taking Behavior in Adolescents with Food Allergy

So we know that the risk of a food allergy fatality from anaphylaxis is higher among adolescents and young adults than in other groups.  However, there has been very little research into the types of risk-taking behaviors that food allergic adolescents currently engage in.  To learn more about adolescent risk taking behavior we have been administering a short web-based survey to 14-22 year-olds with food allergy.  Survey questions assess food allergy history, food allergy reactions, food allergy risks, food allergy support, general risk assessment, and demographics.  

Though data collection is still ongoing, preliminary results (N=80) indicate respondents are mostly female (70%), white (88%), with an average age of 16.6 years (SD=2.1). Regarding selected risk-taking behaviors analyzed, 11% of respondents do not believe their allergy is life-threatening. . Additionally, 14% consume homemade foods not knowing what they contain. Importantly, 8% of respondents do not carry injectable epinephrine, and 44% do not wear medical jewelry. Once data collection is complete we will identify best practices for adolescents and formulate recommendations for risk reduction and continued research.  Expect more news later this year! 

A webinar featuring my food allergy research!

Last week I was invited by the American Academy of Pediatrics to give a webinar entitled Food Allergy Epidemiology, Diagnosis and Management in the Medical Home.  In this hour-long presentation, I shared my research and personal perspectives on food allergy alongside other experts. Though the talk was intended for an audience of pediatricians, much of the talk provides basic info about food allergy, how it's diagnosed, and how it should be managed--all of which is relevant to anyone who has/cares for someone with food allergy.  If you're at all interested, I recommend taking a look at the archived video, which you can find here.  Hope you enjoy the presentation!

Learn about Anaphylaxis!

As a pediatrician and food allergy researcher, I spend a lot of time talking about anaphylaxis.  For those who have never experienced it, it can be hard to comprehend just how profoundly it affects the body's different organ systems.  Anaphylaxis can manifest itself in many ways, from wheezing and facial swelling to confusion and abdominal pain.  I recently learned about a really neat online resource that explains the various effects of anaphylaxis through an interactive body map.  Take a look and educate yourself on the different ways that anaphylaxis can present--it's important to know the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction!

My new website!

At long last, I'm proud to announce the formal unveiling of my new website, www.ruchigupta.com.  From now on, the site will provide a one-stop shop for information about my ongoing research, with links to articles, videos, book, and any other interesting projects we have going on.  You can also meet my research team and check out some of my recent media appearances.  So I encourage you to go visit the site and explore.  Hope you like it!    

New Paper about Childhood Peanut Allergy

Although peanut allergy is among the most common food allergies, no study has comprehensively described the distribution and predictors of childhood peanut allergy in the United States. The goal of this study, which was just published in the journal Asthma and Allergy Proceedings, was to better characterize peanut allergy prevalence, how it is being diagnosed, and the type of allergic reactions that children with peanut allergy tend to have. To accomplish this we surveyed nearly 40,000 parents from all over the US. Of the 3218 children identified with food allergy, 754 (24.8%) were reported to have a peanut allergy. 

In our study, we found that peanut allergy was reported most often among 6- to 10-year-old children (25.5%), white children (47.7%), and children from households with an annual income of $50,000-$99,999 (41.7%). Although peanut allergy was diagnosed by a physician in roughly 75% of cases, the reactions tended to be more severe than for other foods (53.7% versus 41.0%).  Furthermore, parents were significantly less likely to report tolerance to peanut as compared with the odds of tolerance reported for other foods. Therefore, overall, childhood peanut allergy, which represents nearly a quarter of all food allergy, presents more severe reactions and is less likely to be outgrown than other food allergies. Although it is diagnosed by a physician in nearly three-fourths of all cases, socioeconomic disparities remain regarding how it is diagnosed.  To learn more about our study, click here.  

Check out Nutrimom's blog!

Happy New Year everyone!  I'm so sorry for my absence over the last couple of months.  However, I have resolved to post more regularly in 2015...starting now :)  This is just a quick post letting you know about a neat blog I have been following recently. Click here to check it out--it's by Tracy aka "Nutrimom"--a self-proclaimed "Food Allergy Liason" who is committed to helping other families with food allergy live more freely by incorporating allergen-free food substitutes and other creative solutions into day-to-day life.  She actually has a neat contest going on right now that you should enter before it ends on 1/16.  Stay tuned for more updates!

The Steve Whitman Award

Recently, over 200 community and academic partners participated in a city-wide symposium hosted by the Chicago Consortium for Community Engagement (C3) entitled “Building Health Equity through Community Engaged Research throughout Chicago.” In the afternoon, there was a poster session featuring partnerships and research across Chicagoland. In tribute to the late Dr. Steve Whitman, renowned social epidemiologist, humanitarian, and social justice advocate, an award was given to honor his memory and work to the top poster.  We are extremely proud that our team was the first recipient of this award for our ongoing collaboration with the Chicago Public Schools ‘Empowering Students with Asthma in Chicago Schools through Photovoice and Videovoice’!  Follow this link to see our poster, which explains more about this exciting community-engaged project!

New Paper about Epinephrine in Schools

Today I'm very happy to announce that our new study "Emergency Epinephrine Use for Food Allergy Reactions in Chicago Public Schools" is garnering some publicity--including this write-up in today's Chicago Tribune.  The paper will be published on October 20th in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Following national and local legislation, CPS was the first large, urban school district in the nation to develop and implement an initiative to supply all public and charter schools in Chicago with epinephrine auto-injectors.  Our paper reports that during the 2012-2013 school year, 38 Chicago Public School (CPS) students and staff were given emergency medication for potentially life-threatening allergic reactions.  Given the significant impact of stocking emergency auto-injectors during the initiative’s first year, we feel that schools across the country should consider adopting similar policies.

Here are some other key findings from the report:

  • The majority of those receiving an EAI were students (92 percent) 
  • More than half didn’t know they had an allergy (55 percent) 
  • Twenty-one of the EAIs given were to treat food induced allergic reactions 
  • Among food-induced reactions, peanut was the most common followed by fin fish 
  • The trigger of more than a third of all reactions was unknown 
  • Elementary schools had the most cases of EAIs administered 
  • School nurses administered the medication the majority of the time 

Upcoming Food Allergy Wellness Summit

In a couple of weeks, I’m excited to be part of an informational FREE online event about living with FOOD ALLERGIES. Have any burning questions about food allergy, or how to manage it?  I will be on a 12 person panel at the FOOD ALLERGY WELLNESS Summit, which runs from November 3rd – 6th.  It's free to listen and there are lots of great educational sessions. Learn more at their website.