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I’ve just come home from our regular Continence Foundation of Australia (CFA)  Qld Branch meeting where a bunch of Committed Peddlers of Continence Promotion (CPCP or #pelvicmafia)  – nurses, Urogynaecologists, Physios, consumers and trade suppliers – planned the next series of public education forums, fundraising exploits and conferences for health professionals. Something tonight caused me to reflect on the many meetings I have attended over the past 21 years and made me stop and decide to write about this amazing organization and one person in particular – our Tracey.
Tracey Sparks is our HPO – I can never remember what that stands for – (have you noticed how every group, every policy, every Committee has a bunch of letters to describe it and with aging, I cannot for the life of me remember them all) – a resource person who organizes public education forums around Brisbane, regional areas and throughout Qld. I worked closely with Tracey when we organized our Four Authors talk during Continence Awareness Week 2012 – she is well versed in all things Continence, thorough, organized, does anything you ask, and most importantly, does all that with good humour and a smile on her face.
What stopped me in my tracks was when I heard a summary of the education sessions Tracey has organized since she was employed by the CFA National to become the Queensland Resource Person, through important funding from the Department of Health and Aging. I reflected that over the years, we volunteers have always tried to do good things – run a professional education forum, maybe one a year; have a public info lecture – every Continence Awareness Week every year or every second year. But we’re all doing it on top of our day jobs, so it’s hard work  and time-consuming.
Since Tracey has started in the paid position she has organized over 20 forums, educated hundreds and hundreds of women and men and generally dispersed thousands of handouts and pamphlets on bladder and bowel related information. And the feedback from grateful recipients speaks for itself. Letters, comments on feedback forms from education forms and just every day people who have said how wonderful it was to be able to attend such a forum for free – life changing one said!  And she meant it literally. Following her attending one of the forums organized by Tracey last year, the lady decided enough was enough with her bladder ruling her life and she went to a doctor. She had some investigations about her urinary frequency and leakage….and she was diagnosed with bladder cancer!!
Now that’s not your usual finding – so don’t everyone panic. But just think if she hadn’t come to that forum, her future could have been quite different.
Now I don’t know what we are going to call the next phase of life after the next election. On a state basis just recently, many continence positions have literally  disappeared. I remember many years ago, the term economic rationalism was bandied around. I remember that the Government funding reductions for soft targets like continence promotion weren’t pleasant. Worthwhile public education programmes were slashed, grants disappeared and money was lean for Continence.
Then came the Department of Health and Aging Continence Project. A fantastic initiative which has seen the amount of money given to CFA enable fantastic Continence  initiatives to flourish. Is it worthwhile investment? You betcha. The Deloitte Access Economics Report into the state of Continence in Australia revealed that incontinence costs the Australian economy $40 BILLION a year. That’s a lot of money. Evidence in the literature shows us that simple education strategies can change behaviours and improve leakage which DOES improve our bottom line financially and wetness-wise…..
So the point of this tribute to Tracey? Thanks Tracey for your enthusiasm, your dedication and your commitment to CFA and may your position (job) be sustained long into the future of the Qld Branch!  Queenslanders need it. Your buddies on the Committee need it…need you 🙂
PS. Don’t forget our fundraiser on 31 August to raise money for HADA –  a Trivial Pursuit night at Lourdes Hill School 6.30 pm $25 fun guaranteed. Contact Jacinta on 0421251981.