THE CHINESE UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG

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					香港中文大學
THE
CHINESE
UNIVERSITY
OF
HONG
KONG



   To News Editor
   For Immediate Release                                                                20 October 2011


     CUHK Discovers the Environmental Factors in Family and School Behind Constipation in HK Children

          Constipation is a common gastrointestinal disorder in children, with a prevalence rate of up to 30%
   in the world as recorded in the medical literature. For many years, medical research in childhood
   constipation has been hampered by the lack of a uniform definition. In recent years, diagnostic criteria
   have been standardized by international experts with an aim to facilitate research and comparison between
   reports with cultural and geographical variations. The causes of constipation and how it develops in
   children have not been fully understood. The habit of voluntary postponement of defecation or the stool
   withholding behaviour in medical term is the most widely investigated. Such behaviour leads to a vicious
   cycle and ends up in chronic constipation. Surprising to many people, chronic constipation, if left
   untreated, will result in fecal incontinence in children. Researchers worldwide have been investigating
   factors which potentially trigger or perpetuate the problem of constipation in an effort to reduce the
   number of severe and chronic cases by correcting such factors.

          The Division of Paediatric Surgery and Paediatric Urology of the Department of Surgery at The
   Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) conducted a territory-wide survey of constipation among
   children in primary schools from March to June 2011. The scale of the study is the largest ever conducted
   among Hong Kong children using internationally agreed definition. Over 2,300 Primary 1 to Primary 6
   children from 10 schools were randomly selected from different districts in Hong Kong. Among these
   interviewees, 98% of them aged 6-12 and 2% of them aged 13-15. The study confirmed that 12.2% of
   children were suffering from constipation

          A number of socio-environmental factors were identified in the study to be associated with
   constipation in children. Children having the following risk factors had higher prevalence rates of
   constipation: a) both parents are not living with the child (27.5%), b) presence of one/both parents in
   dinner with the child for less than 50% of the time (16%), c) refusal to have bowel movements in school
   toilets despite the urge (16.3%), d) busy after-school life with homework (14.6%) and inadequate night
   time sleep (17.4%). Constipated children were also found to have the tendency of eating less fibers and
   having more consumption of fast food and local street food than non-constipated children. Since most of
   the factors have never been reported in previous studies, the new findings help to better tackle this
   common health problem in our children.

          In conclusion, CUHK’s research has identified a number of socio-environmental factors which may
   increase the risk of development of constipation in children. Bringing these risk factors to the awareness
   of the medical profession and the public helps prevent childhood constipation and stop its progression at
   an earlier stage. ‘We wish to draw attention that childhood constipation is prevalent in our society and
   fecal incontinence in children is always a result of untreated chronic constipation. Parents, schools and
   primary health care physicians can collaborate their effort to prevent childhood constipation by
   discouraging postponement of defecation in children, promoting a positive attitude of using school toilets
   and building up a regular bowel habit in our children,’ said Dr. Tam Yuk Him, CUHK Honorary Clinical
   Associate Professor and the chief investigator of this study.

   Media inquiries: Ms Grace Tse, The Division of Paediatric Surgery and Paediatric Urology of Department
   of Surgery, CUHK (Tel: 2632-2953)

				
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