Have you ever stopped and wondered what it feels like to be a person with a disability or disorder? Oftentimes, people may feel uncomfortable when they meet a person with a disability or learn that someone has a disorder because they don’t know what to say to them or what to do. Because of the stigma our society puts on people with disabilities and disorders, those people might feel a sense of uneasiness when going out into the community. This may lead to those people feeling remote, isolated, and disconnected from the rest of society. So, how do we break this stigma, or the perception, surrounding people with disabilities and disorders? The answer is through awareness and education.
Every month, different healthcare institutions organize awareness campaigns to inform and educate people about certain diseases, disorders, and disabilities that affect one’s life. For the month of August, the Gastroenterology community will be honoring Gastroparesis Awareness Month, or also known as Digestive Tract Paralysis Month.
So, what exactly is Gastroparesis Awareness Month? First, let’s take a look at what gastroparesis is, discuss how this awareness month started, and then we'll share what organizations, healthcare professionals, and different communities are doing this month.
What is Gastroparesis?
Gastroparesis is a chronic digestive disorder in which your stomach cannot empty itself of food in a normal fashion. It can either be caused by diseases of the stomach’s muscles or the nerves that control the muscles. Although the specific cause of gastroparesis is not known, the most common disease that causes the condition is diabetes mellitus, which damages the nerves that control the stomach muscles. The most common symptoms of gastroparesis are nausea, dry heaves, vomiting, and early fullness/the inability to finish a meal. The extremity of these symptoms often depends on the severity of the condition.
Currently, there are approximately five million people in the United States living with the debilitating and sometimes life-threatening symptoms of gastroparesis. Those diagnosed with motility disorders, such as gstroparesis, are still able to maintain functional lives with the help of medications and lifestyle changes.
Gastroparesis Awareness Month: The History
Digestive Tract Paralysis Awareness Month, which started out as Gastroparesis Awareness Week in 2009, was founded by the Gastroparesis Patient Association for Cures and Treatment, Inc. (G-PACT). It was established on August 23, 2001, and has reached over 35 countries and all 50 states in the United States. G-PACT is a non-profit organization that provides services to patients who suffer from Gastroparesis, Chronic Intestinal Pseudo-obstruction, and Colonic Inertia. These three conditions are being referred to as ‘Digestive Tract Paralysis’ or DTP. Even though the term itself is not medically recognized, G-PACT uses this term to present the three conditions much more easily to their followers and the public.
The organization provides educational resources, multiple support programs, patient advocacy programs, and other different kinds of support to help patients cope with their condition - they also provide hope. G-PACT has been on a mission to find a cure for gastroparesis and other paralytic conditions of the digestive tract. They have a medical advisory board made up of the top motility physicians, and they organize events locally and on a national level. G-PACT tries to raise awareness through online programs, lobbying, exhibiting and speaking at conferences, contacting news media and politicians, and working with other related organizations.
Aside from G-PACT, other healthcare institutions celebrate Gastroparesis Awareness Month. Organizations such as the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) and National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) also organize events and programs aimed at raising awareness about gastroparesis.
Gastroparesis Awareness Month: Raising Awareness
Around the world, the month of August has been proclaimed by many state leaders as Gastroparesis Motility Disorder Month. In addition, August has been selected as Gastroparesis Awareness Month for the NHO Health Observances Calendar. Every year, health organizations come up with different ways to create awareness about this often misunderstood condition. One way that they do this is by partnering with patients who were diagnosed with this disease and allowing their voices to be heard all around the world. Here are some of the activities and events that are being put together by organizations in honor of Gastroparesis Awareness Month:
- #HearMeGP Campaign
IFFGD launched a campaign that aimed to elevate the voices of patients by sharing their stories about their needs and hopes for the future. To promote the campaign on social media and other online platforms, they used a hashtag to reach a larger audience. The goal of this campaign is for patients and their family members, friends, and other supporters to raise their voices in the gastroparesis community and raise awareness in the public.
- Green Luminaries Lighting - Gastroparesis: Fighting for a Change community in Arkansas has taken part in Gastroparesis Awareness Month previously by hosting an event to raise awareness for motility disorders. In the past they put together an event that involved lighting green luminaries along the sidewalks in the city. The event was also to memorialize those who have died from those conditions. And the children who attended the event received green glow sticks (the colors green and yellow are nationally recognized colors for gastroparesis and other motility disorders).
- GP Pie Face Challenge - G-PACT joined and participated in the New Cumberland Apple Festival to raise awareness about the disabling digestive condition by hosting a game which they call ‘GP Pie Face Challenge’. Out of 20 characters, participants get a chance to choose a Face in the Hole image or have a group pie face challenge with a several people. They also organized an apple bobbing game (with plastic apples and nets) for kids to win prizes such as free awareness bands and free highlighters. Additionally, they had baked goods and handmade crafts for sale. The day was clearly filled with fun and enjoyable activities for both kids and adults, all for a good cause.
Those are just examples of a few different ways that organizations and communities across the U.S. are partaking in Gastroparesis Awareness Month. However, you and your staff can also get involved. Consider hosting an educational session for care givers and family members on how to care and support a loved one with gastroparesis, sharing facts and informative info on social media about this gastro-intestinal disorder, or putting together an event at your practice that educates the public about gastroparesis. There are alot of option on what you can do. However, the main goal is that you take action and help with creating awareness.
According to Kofi Annan, “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.” There are still a lot of people who are not aware of gastroparesis and other digestive tract paralysis disorders. This month, let's show our support to those people who have been diagnosed with gastroparesis by educating ourselves about the condition and gaining a better understanding of their situation.
If you’re a medical provider in the gastroenterology field, your main focus is on helping your gastroparesis and other GI patients. However, being bogged down by clinical tasks and the medical billing process often takes away from you and your staff being able to focus on your patients. Therefore, in order to ensure that your gastroparesis patients can get properly treated (and you get paid for your services), it’s important to have a team of experienced gastroenterology practice management and billing specialists on your team. Our goal at DrCatalyst is to help you in that area.
As a speciality-specific medical services company, we have a group of team members who are well-versed in the gastroenterology specialty. We understand the complex gastroenterology billing codes and rules. At DrCatalyst, the goal of our services is to help you create a streamlined and accurate workflow that takes the billing frustrations off your plate and allows you to focus on what matters most - your patients. If you’d like to chat further about how we can help you and your staff, contact us and let’s have a quick chat.