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Kidney Disease Research Updates
Summer 2011

NIH Launches Bowel Control Awareness Campaign for Health Care Professionals and the Public

Photo of NIDDK Bowel Control Awareness Campaign materials including a banner, health fair flyer, notepad, cell phone holder and website screen shot.

On June 1, 2011, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) launched the Bowel Control Awareness Campaign to raise awareness of bowel control problems, also known as fecal incontinence. A bowel control problem is a mild to severe inability to control bowel movements. The Awareness Campaign stems from the recommendations of an independent panel of experts convened by the NIH to assess the current prevalence, risk factors, diagnosis, treatment, and management of the condition.

“Our findings indicate that fecal incontinence is a significant public health burden in the U.S.—affecting close to 10 percent of the adult population over 40 years old,” said Griffin P. Rodgers, M.D., M.A.C.P., director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), the NIH Institute leading the effort. “The Bowel Control Awareness Campaign’s main objective is raising public awareness of fecal incontinence to aid in prevention of incontinence and to improve the lives of men and women living with the condition.”

Bowel control problems affect an estimated 18 million U.S. adults—one out of 12 people. People with bowel control problems are often reluctant to discuss the condition with their doctor. The embarrassment associated with fecal incontinence can have a crippling effect on quality of life for millions, and the condition is believed to be widely underdiagnosed.

Developed by the NIDDK, along with professional and voluntary organizations, the Awareness Campaign offers materials and resources about the symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and management of bowel control problems for patients and health care professionals. Available through the Awareness Campaign’s “Let’s Talk about Bowel Control” website are publications such as a fecal incontinence fact sheet, an easy-to-read bowel control booklet, and a health fair flyer; NIH bowel control research information; and links to professional and voluntary organizations.

“The lack of communication between health care professionals and patients appears to be one of the main challenges with bowel control problems. Being able to talk about the problem is the first step in both prevention and treatment,” said Stephen P. James, M.D., director of the Division of Digestive Diseases and Nutrition at the NIDDK. “People experiencing bowel control problems need to know they are not alone and that the condition can be managed. The Bowel Control Awareness Campaign will inform health care professionals and the public that bowel incontinence is a common condition and that effective treatments are available.”

For more information about the Bowel Control Awareness Campaign, or to download any of the campaign materials, visit the website at

For health information about digestive diseases, visit the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, part of the NIDDK, at


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NIH Publication No. 11–4531
September 2011


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