Lourdes Salvador's Column
...Co-founder of MCS America discusses the latest Multiple Chemical Sensitivity issues.
Lourdes Salvador volunteers as a writer and social advocate for the recognition of multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). She was a passionate advocate for the homeless and worked with her local governor to provide services to the homeless through a new approach she created to end homelessness. That passion soon turned to advocacy and activism for people with MCS and the medical professionals who serve them. She co-founded MCS Awareness in 2005 and went on to found MCS America in 2006. She serves as a partner for Environmental Education Week, a partner for the Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE), and a supporter for the American Cancer Society: Campaign for Smokefree Air.
Science Shows Medical Providers Lack Facts About Illness
by Lourdes Salvador
Patients with unexplained illnesses are broadly underserved by the medical profession. By and large this is due to poor reception from doctors and the stigmatization of having an unexplained illness.
Researchers have proposed that these attitudes may be due to a fundamental lack of education and understanding of factual information on the part of medical providers.
Unexplained illnesses are medical conditions for which science had yet to find a concrete cause or confirmatory diagnostic test. Some unexplained illnesses include fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and multiple chemical sensitivity.
Friedberg and colleagues at the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, Stony Brook University, New York, recognized the difficulty that patients with unexplained illnesses have when obtaining medical care and how it impacts their ability to recover.
Seeking a solution, they examined how an interactive seminar focusing on two medically unexplained illnesses, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and fibromyalgia (FM), influenced medical student attitudes towards stigmatized illness.
The study was geared toward forth year medical students. Forty-five students attended a 90 minute seminar on the management of medically unexplained illness which focused on CFS.
Prior to the seminar, the students took an attitudes test. This test was administered again immediately after the seminar. Student attitudes at the end of the seminar were more favorable towards CFS and showed recognition of the need for:
1. Supporting more CFS research funding,
2. Employers providing flexible hours for people with CFS, and
3. Viewing CFS as not a physical rather than psychological disorder.
This data has led Friedberg and colleagues to conclude that, "This type of instruction may lead to potentially more receptive professional attitudes toward providing care to these underserved patients."
Activists have long fought for additional education for medical professionals in this area.
In 2005, MCS Awareness (www.mcs-awareness.org) petitioned the America n Medical Association and Association of America Medical Colleges to include extensive training in toxicology and environmental illness for all new physicians and to require continuing education in these fields for all currently practicing physicians.
A 2007, MCS America (www.mcs-america.org) further petitioned the American Medical Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and National Institute of health regarding multiple chemical sensitivity. The petition clearly asserts, "Physicians and health care systems lack education and training in chemical injury, toxicology, and environmental controls and are ill prepared to serve this population of patients."
Clearly, MCS, CFS, and FM each require additional research funding, education, and training of physicians so that underserved patients may obtain the care they require to heal and live the fullest lives possible.
Friedberg F, Sohl SJ, Halperin PJ. Teaching medical students about medically unexplained illnesses: A preliminary study. Med Teach. 2008 May 20:1-4.
For more articles on this topic, see: MCSA News.
Copyrighted 2008 Lourdes Salvador & MCS America