Webinars Keep Patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease in the Know

ECF grant helps Crohn’s and Colitis Canada host online information sessions during pandemic

The pandemic has been hard on all of us, but especially those with chronic illnesses such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Folks with IBD are immune-compromised as a result of both medication and disease symptoms, making them more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 and to developing complications.

“They’re in a higher-risk category and have to take more precautions,” said Sara Ghandeharian, Education Programs Coordinator with Crohn’s and Colitis Canada. “It’s impacted their ability to work and to return to work, and for children to resume school.”

More than ever, people with IBD need support to manage their disease, including up-to-date, reliable health information. Crohn’s and Colitis Canada has provided this kind of support since its inception in 1974, but usually through in-person events in the community. When the pandemic hit, the national organization was challenged to bring its services online in a hurry.

An $8,000 grant from Edmonton Community Foundation, via the Government of Canada’s Emergency Community Support Fund (ECSF), has helped the organization do just that. The funding supported the development of a weekly webinar series with up-to-date information to help community members manage their health.

“There was a little bit of a scramble, but we’re doing as much as we can with the resources we have available,” said Brittany Freeman, a leadership gift officer with Crohn’s and Colitis Canada. “Having the funding from ECF has been amazing and super helpful.”

Since the spring, the organization has offered about 20 webinars and has more scheduled this fall. A few webinars have been geared toward health-care providers, but most are focused on patient needs. In addition to providing up-to-date COVID-19 information, these webinars feature medical specialists answering questions from patients and speaking on themes including mental health, nutrition, and medication use.

“I think [participants] really have felt reassured that these experts are coming online every week and answering questions directly, and also articulating the guidelines for people,” said Ghandeharian, who coordinates the webinars.

“With all the challenges resulting from the pandemic, sometimes a very small amount of funding can make a big difference,” Craig Stumpf-Allen, ECF’s Director of Grants and Community Engagement said.