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Vidyya, from the Sanskrit "vaidya," a practitioner who has come to understand the science of life.

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Back To Vidyya Ulcer Awareness Week:

18-25 September 2000

Nearly one in ten adult Americans is affected by peptic ulcer disease, exacting a heavy burden in health care related costs an estimated $6 billion each year in addition to much personal illness and pain.  Until recently, ulcer disease was thought to be a chronic condition caused by stress or diet and often had to be endured for many years.  Symptoms could be eased with acid reducing medications but recurrence rates were high, creating a frustrating cycle of pain, relief and relapse for many patients.

We now know that nine of every ten ulcers are caused by an infectious bacterium, Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), and can be cured with antibiotics.  Antibiotic therapy represents a dramatic medical advance in the treatment of ulcer disease because there is a better than 90 percent chance that the ulcer will be gone for good.

Unfortunately, the old beliefs still persist.  CDC research shows that 75 percent of Americans are still unaware that most ulcers are caused by an infection, and thousands of ulcer patients continue to suffer unnecessarily.  Your assistance in spreading this important news throughout your community can help change the perception of ulcer disease and encourage patients to talk to a health professional about a cure and an end to their pain.

The Goals of Ulcer Awareness Week Are:
  • To increase awareness that nine of every 10 peptic ulcers are actually caused by an infection that can be cured, and
  • To encourage ulcer patients to seek professional help in the diagnosis, treatment and cure for their ulcer.

In order to effectively influence behavior, we first need to understand the attitudes, perceptions and beliefs of ulcer sufferers.  The most common misperceptions are that stress and spicy foods cause ulcers.  Nearly 60 percent of consumers, in a 1997 survey, still believed that ulcers are caused by too much stress, and 17 percent thought eating spicy foods was the cause.

A man eatily happily

Furthermore, having become adept at symptom maintenance over the years, many ulcer sufferers are skeptical about a permanent cure for their ulcer.  Many ulcer sufferers self-diagnose and self-treat with over-the-counter (OTC) products and have done so for years.  Changing such long-held misperceptions and practices will require a combination of education and intervention at the local and national levels.  In order for people to become more aware of the ulcer/infection link, they need to hear it from many sources and have it reinforced by reassurances from trusted sources, to affect behavior change.  This is the impetus for Ulcer Awareness Week.

Most importantly, we need to raise awareness among patients and consumers that nine of every 10 peptic ulcers are actually caused by an infection that is curable!  This information can encourage ulcer patients to seek professional help in the diagnosis, treatment and cure for their ulcer.  The primary audiences for the ulcer message are consumers who fall in the following categories:

  • Health Care Consumers
  • Long term sufferers who are more than 60 years old
  • People with a recent onset of symptoms, normally after age 35
  • Minority populations
  • General population that continues to hold misperceptions about ulcer cause
To complement this effort, it is important that health professionals be encouraged to communicate with their patients about the relationship between H. pylori and peptic ulcer disease.  Ulcer Awareness Week is the perfect time to heighten awareness of peptic ulcer disease among health professional groups such as:
  • Primary care physicians
  • Nurse practitioners and physician assistants
  • Directors of managed care organizations
  • Pharmacists

Call 1-888-my ulcer
For information about H. pylori infection and ulcers,
see your health care provider or call toll-free: 1-888-MY-ULCER.

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Editor: Susan K. Boyer, RN
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