DES National Public Education Campaigns

Listen to the short radio interview featuring Carol Devine, founder and coordinator of DES Action Australia (NSW), and Dr Jules Black, Queensland Gyneocologist and sexuality expert, about the silence around the DES issue and the difficulties to push for a much needed Australian DES National Public Education Campaign 10 years after the USA first DES national campaign launched in 2001. In Australia it is estimated that 740,000 people have been exposed to DES diethylstilbestrol, yet no such campaign has been held. These people are not receiving proper medical treatment, or making truly informed decisions about their healthcare, as a result.

Culture of Silence on sex hormone link to cancerRadio Interview about DES featuring Carol Devine and Dr Jules Black, produced by Annamarie Reyes April 05th, 2011.

Below is a short summary and a few quotes from this interesting radio interview from down under:

DES National Public Education Campaigns or the Wall of Silence

The USA has moved to legislate to make it compulsory that a DES National Public Education Campaign is held for DES affected communities. Dr Black explains that the USA acting first on public campaigns came out of increased pressure amongst affected women in the number of millions. In Australia he says “I found constantly with my patients a wall of silence”.

“Since the Food and Drug Administration approved this drug it was important for them to make sure this drug was ok (…). It wasn’t (…). There was a certain degree of cover up fear at first but then when the story came out and due to pressure by female organisations, support groups and so on, they admitted”, comments Dr Black. The FDA acknowledged the DES tragedy 40 years after they issued a warning about the DES cancer link.

The equivalent support group in Australia pushing for change is DES Action Australia (NSW). Carol Devine, the coordinator, explains the strugle to put the issue on the public agenda since the 1970’s when the issue came to light. The USA could not keep it quiet anymore. Too many people were affected by Diethylstilbestrol exposure. The USA went as far as holding a DES National Public Education Campaign in 2001 which led to legislate that research should happen and DES and potential DES affected people should be informed. “Over there”, comments Carol Devine, there is a fantastic body of women called DES Action USA. They are all right behind making sure these things happen in the USA”. In Australia, Carol Devine sent all the documentation papers about the USA DES National Public Education Campaign to the Australian Federal Health Minister. A few days later she received the package back in her doorstep saying “We do not require these”. “It has been a total shut down on this issue in Australia and quite frankly this is a national disgrace” comments Carol. Advocates in Australia have no choice but take the matters to the Human Rights Commission.

What’s the situation in France and Europe?

Reseau DES France educational brochure front cover image

In France and in other parts of Europe, the FDA warning issued in 1971 about the health concerns related to Di-ethyl Stilbestrol didn’t get heard and the drug continued to be prescribed to pregnant women until the late 1970’s early 1980’s. The support group Réseau DES France was established in 1994. Their first DES public education campaign was launched in 1997 with the brochure “DES Distilbène® Exposure, the questions you ask yourself” aimed at raising DES awareness amongst the general public. Since 1994 Réseau DES France has engaged in many areas (information, cooperation, advocacy and lobbying, and DES lawsuits to name just a few). They’ve achieved many results and successes such a the right to longer maternity leave for DES pregnancies.

In the United Kingdom, Ireland and the Netherlands support groups have also been created. DES Action UK launched a petition in 2009 to demand a Public Enquiry aimed at investigating the effects of the drug diethylstilboestrol (DES) on women. They collected 130 signatures. “The government statistics are hopelessly out of date and information is not freely or widely made available by the government” write the petition creators Nick de Bois and Barbara Killick.

I can’t stress enough the importance and crucial need for efficient DES National Public Education Campaigns to ensure all people affected by DES exposure are aware of its side effects for them and their children. Collaboration between DES Action groups is also very important. The silence around the DES issue poses health risks in itself as many people including doctors don’t even know what DES is, what the health risks are, and how to prevent them. With so many people affected by it, and so few aware that they have been exposed, it is the responsibility of our governments to raise public awareness of this global health catastrophe.

I wish DES Action Australia (NSW) the very best of luck with their battle for an Australian DES National Public Education Campaign and hope more DES daughters and sons will make their voice heard. We are not alone in this; Millions of people around the world have been exposed to DES so surely if we shout loud enough we will be heard not only by governments but also by fellow DES victims unaware of their DES exposure and its health risks.

Sources: Réseau DES France, DES Action Australia (NSW), DES Action UK

7 Replies to “DES National Public Education Campaigns”

  1. Keep up the good work. We will win, stay strong. As a DES Mum from UK and unaware of the dangers until hearing from Carol Devine’s support group, I am spreading the word to all levels of Govt, medicos and general community. I have found a number of other UK migrants who were unaware of the dangers of DES – a hidden population of victims. Florence

    1. Thank you for your kind words of support. I am appalled by the lack of information about Di-ethyl Stilbestrol and the complete dismissal of the DES issues here in the UK and sadly in many other European countries where Diethylstilbestrol was prescribed. It is astonishing that it’s only after moving to Australia that you found out about the health risks associated to Diethylstilbestrol ! I am so grateful for the work of DES activists such as Carol Devine. Kind regards, DES Daughter

  2. I had no idea. Your site has really opened my eyes to this problem. I’ve read up on many drug and food related problem but I’ve never came across this one. I’m happy to see someone doing the research to get a high quality message out there.

  3. Thank you so much for all this pertinent information. I’m always so fascinated coming across new health information that’s so foreign, and it’s so important for everyone to really comprehend the issues that we don’t realize our peers deal with.

  4. Thank you Carol for your constant hard work and also your support. You are our voice and without you we would not have the information that you always pass onto us..

  5. Sad as this all is, it is inspiring to see how much of an impact your activism can have. It’s amazing how the internet is allowing activists from around the world to unite and share information.
    Lynn

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