World-first allergy organisations launch to advance research, clinical care

Wednesday, August 31, 2022 - 12:00 AM

In a major step towards addressing Australia’s allergy epidemic, the Hon. Ged Kearney MP, Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care, alongside allergy experts, will launch two critical health organisations in Melbourne today.

The National Allergy Council (NAC) and National Allergy Centre of Excellence (NACE) are backed by a $26.9 million Federal Government investment. The initiatives will help accelerate allergy research and clinical care to improve the lives of five million Australians living with allergic disease and prevent anaphylaxis, including needless deaths.

Assistant Minister Kearney said: “Serious allergies impact the lives of individuals and families in a massive way. That’s why this $26.9 million funding boost is so important. It’s so critical to bring together all of our nation’s peak allergy organisations, clinicians, researchers, policymakers and crucially, patients and carers.”

Maria Said AM, NAC Director, Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia CEO, said: “Allergic disease impacts significantly on a person’s health and wellbeing and can be life threatening. Allergy is among the fastest growing chronic conditions in Australia, affecting approximately one in five Australians.1 I can’t emphasise enough how the Government’s significant investment will transform the lives of these Australians through improved allergy research, clinical care, education, prevention and support.”

Dr Preeti Joshi, NAC Director and Co-chair, Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) representative and paediatric clinical immunology and allergy specialist, said: “We know from our work and the House of Representatives’ Walking the allergy tightrope report, that it is critical we reduce the alarming trend of anaphylaxis rates and tragic deaths due to allergic disease. Establishing these organisations will ensure the findings from quality research will be implemented effectively to improve and save lives.”

Associate Professor Kirsten Perrett, NACE Director, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute Group Leader, added: “Sadly, our country is considered the allergy capital of the world. As Australia’s leading allergy research body, we want to change that by expanding our evidence-base for the prevention and management of drug, food, insect and respiratory allergic disease. To do this, the NACE will develop hubs for allergy research, repository and discovery, evidence and translation, and training and innovation. I believe this national plan of action will have a life-changing impact.” 

Working together, the NAC and NACE will deliver:

  • A shared care program to significantly cut wait times to see a specialist by at least 50 per cent and improve access to quality allergy care for all Australians, especially in rural and remote areas
  • The digital infrastructure for a National Allergy Repository to facilitate precision medicine, allowing individualised allergy healthcare for children and adults. This would include a live anaphylaxis reporting system
  • A National Allergy Clinical Trials Network to provide Australians with accelerated access to safe and effective allergy treatments
  • Continued public health guidelines and prevention programs such as the successful food allergy prevention program ‘Nip allergies in the Bub’, which includes practical resources for parents and educational support for healthcare providers
  • New clinical and research capabilities to enable Australia to maintain its world-leading status in allergy research and to answer the most important questions in allergy that will guide the way forward to help decrease the burden on individuals, families, the healthcare system and the community at large.

The NAC is a natural progression of the successful National Allergy Strategy and will continue to be a partnership between the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) and Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia (AA&A). The Centre for Food & Allergy Research (CFAR) has expanded to become the NACE, which will generate and synthesise the evidence-base that underpins the activities of the NAC to ensure Australia remains at the forefront of evidence-based management of allergic disease.

Professor Michaela Lucas, Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) President, concluded: “It is important the government has listened to the recommendations of the Parliamentary Inquiry. This funding will improve the health outcomes for patients with allergic disease and enable Australia’s allergy organisations to provide world leading allergy management and research.”


Meet the McKenzie family

Ben and Tamara McKenzie tragically lost their son, 15-year-old Max, to anaphylaxis a year ago. Max had anaphylaxis his whole life and managed his condition extremely carefully. Yet despite this, and having a father that is an emergency physician and a mother with a background in health, he died suddenly from anaphylaxis in Melbourne.

Ben, Max’s father, said: “Max ate some walnuts and developed sudden asthma as his main symptom. He used his EpiPen and his ventolin, and he entered health care with 100 per cent oxygen levels. Despite this, he deteriorated and did not receive the care from health professionals that he should have. His brain did not get enough oxygen and he died suddenly in intensive care 13 days later. Our pain is unimaginable, and it has not lessened. Sadly, we are not the only family who lost a child to anaphylaxis in Melbourne last year.

“There are so many facets to reducing allergy-related disease. All levels of government and our community need to play a part. Allergens are everywhere in everyday life, which means the solutions will not be simple. We need to make sure our emergency medical systems have world-class standards for when accidents inevitably occur. We need an allergy system that brings together all of these elements in a coordinated strategy that is robust and well-funded. It is important to recognise different groups in the system need different information and different tools to play their role in managing allergy effectively.  

“Today is a step in the right direction for all of these things. So, to the federal government, to ASCIA, to Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia, and to this brand-new National Allergy Council and the National Allergy Centre of Excellence, we applaud you and thank you for bringing some light into our grief.  And on behalf of the families of the children who do not die because of this initiative, hopefully they will never know how lucky they are.”

Read more on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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