In 2008, Global Forum on Incontinence was held in Nice, France

Incontinence remains an isolating and debilitating condition and a clear communication barrier exists, even amongst those experiencing the condition. The conference with the theme “Incontinence – A Challenge for Society”, gathered people from all over the world.

“Incontinence is a huge problem, a global problem. It is underdiagnosed and undertreated and affects the quality of life of millions of people” commented Prof. Ian Milsom, Salhlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg:Chairman, Global Forum on Incontinence.

Incontinence is a major cause of institutionalisation, and ageing global demographics are set to add pressure to already stretched healthcare budgets. However, professional caregivers and policy makers have a major role to play in reducing the public healthcare burden of the condition and at the sametime improve patients' quality of life.  Incontinence is, an expensive condition, both in direct financial costs and in terms of its impact on the quality of life of both patients and their families.

Laurel Salthouse is a spokesperson for patient lobby group, Incontact, London. She said: “It used to be a case of drug up, pad up and shut up. It was a taboo but hopefully things are nowstarting to change.”

Rosanna Tarricone, associate professor, healthcare management, at Bocconi University, Milan reflected: “I have heard a lot of different perspectives from the conference. We need to speak more about incontinence. Being such a stigmatised disease, having such an open debate can only be helpful”

Prevention is a key goal in many areas of illness, and incontinence is no exception. Diane Newman from the University of Pennsylvania Penn Centre for Continence and Pelvic Health highlighted the amount of research linking overweight/obesity, smoking, urination habits (overly frequent or infrequent) and diet (caffeine, spicy foods and fizzy drinks) with incontinence. 

“There are opportunities to redesign services. We can't cure everybody but we can improve quality of life. Appropriate care, properly delivered can make a fantastic difference to patients' lives. In an ideal world, all patients are identified and are offered a tailored care plan by a trained continence adviser. Healthcare professionals are well placed to identify patients if they can ask the right questions.” Kath Wilkinson Continence Care Forum Chair, Royal College of Nursing, London

The clear message from delegates to the Global Forum on Incontinence is that action is needed and that it is needed now - from all stakeholders. From academics, there is a need to better understand and, therefore, more accurately cost all factors relating to the economic and quality of life burden of incontinence. For policy makers, there is the pressing question of how to best manage these costs in light of the ageing global population. Effective prevention strategies will certainly need to be incorporated.