Experiences of stigma among food allergic children in Ontario schools

Experiences of stigma among food allergic children in Ontario schools

hscA new publication by AllerGen investigators reports the experiences of stigma among food allergic children in Ontario schools in the context of Sabrina’s Law.

The study, “Disclosing food allergy status in schools: health-related stigma among school children in Ontario,” published in Health and Social Care in the Community in May 2015, explored students’ experiences of felt and enacted stigma in the school setting that resulted from disclosing their food allergies. However, the study also found that a major benefit associated with Sabrina’s Law is the cultural shift in awareness of food allergies, which can have beneficial effects for the allergic population, including knowledge and awareness among school personnel.

Enacted in 2006, three years after 13-year-old Sabrina Shannon died from an anaphylactic reaction in her school cafeteria, Sabrina’s Law is the first legislation in the world to protect children in schools with life-threatening food allergies. The legislation requires that every school board in Ontario establish and maintain an anaphylaxis policy, and that principals develop individual plans for pupils at risk of anaphylaxis.

While the intent of Sabrina’s Law was to create a safe environment for allergic youth, this new research has found that some of the practices and policies implemented to ensure safety (e.g. removing allergic students from the classroom, posting photos of allergic students) have resulted in some children feeling stigmatized.

AllerGen investigators Drs Susan Elliott (University of Waterloo) and Ann Clarke (University of Calgary); collaborators Drs Nancy Fenton and Jennifer Dean (University of Waterloo); and Sara Shannon, Sabrina Shannon’s mother, co-authored the paper.