In quick succession, the Foundation’s I Will Manage educational program was offered in hospitals across the country. Its 800 number rang off the hook with orders for the book and with requests to received the first newsletter on incontinence, The Informer.
The Foundation has continued its groundbreaking initiatives over the years. It convened the first International Conference on the Prevention of Incontinence, held in London, England in 1997. That was followed, in 2003, by Stigma in Healthcare, the first conference on the stigma surrounding incontinence and its psychological impact. In 2007, it launched Innovating for Continence: The Engineering Challenge, a series of biennial international conferences.
Today, there are physicians who specialize in the treatment of incontinence, shelves full of products in drugstores and supermarkets or delivered to your doorstep, books galore on the topic, websites devoted entirely to incontinence products, and advertisements for medications and products on the nightly news.
Progress, indeed. And yet, in a 2015 online survey conducted by the Simon Foundation with over 1,200 respondents, fecal incontinence was ranked the fourth most stigmatized health condition, with urinary incontinence ranked eighth. This is an irrefutable indication of the tenacity of stigma surrounding incontinence.
Incontinence is not alone in this. The stigma that surrounds incontinence surrounds many other health conditions, both seen and unseen. Yet each condition has a story to tell of advances in management, treatment, and cure that have taken place while the stigma remains. For example, in the foundation’s 2015 survey, cancer was ranked as the ninth most stigmatized condition. AIDS was number one.
A rising tide floats all boats. Tackling health stigma is a job for everyone. The Simon Foundation’s experience and success in addressing one of the most stigmatized health conditions makes us determined and qualified to lead the way.