On World Atopic Dermatitis Day 2019, Sanofi and Regeneron launched a new, global grants initiative seeking proposals for grassroot solutions to help solve some of the greatest challenges impacting people living with atopic dermatitis (AD).
In its inaugural year, the "Agents of Change" AD Challenge focused on the unacceptable, and sometimes overlooked, bullying or stigma experienced by people living with AD, people like Malena, a schoolgirl who lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina, who has severe AD.
Malena has faced bullying and isolation at school, been excluded from games because her classmates thought her AD was contagious, and is often unable to take part in school activities, like gym class. “I can’t go to gym class, because when I sweat my skin starts getting irritated and then I feel sore all over”, she said. But the hardest part is the reaction of others. She explains: “The people who don’t know what I have get scared and want to be far from me.”
For adults and adolescents with AD, the visible symptoms of the disease–skin lesions and skin dryness, cracking, redness or darkness, crusting and oozingi –can have a significant impact on their emotional and psychosocial well-being.ii,iii These visible symptoms can result in bullying, often rooted in a lack of understanding of the disease.
In its first year, the "Agents of Change" AD Challenge received 44 proposals in 48 days from individuals, non-profit organizations and the health innovation community, ranging from small, local grassroot efforts to large-scale patient advocacy groups with global reach. Ideas were submitted from 15 countries around the world.
The proposals were reviewed against a pre-defined set of criteria and by a panel of experts made up of global leaders from the AD community.
Sanofi Genzyme and Regeneron are delighted to award five organizations $10,000 each in grant funding to support the roll-out and implementation of their ideas and proposals in their local communities.
Learn more about the five grant recipients for the 2019 "Agents of Change" AD Challenge:
Youth-Led Education and Awareness Campaign
Based in California, US, Global Parents for Eczema Research (GPER) is a global, grassroots network of parents dedicated to improving the quality of life of children with AD through research and innovation.
GPER proposes to launch an AD awareness campaign on popular teen platforms such as Snapchat, TikTok, and other social media. The messages and content of the campaign will be developed and authored by teens who live with AD every day and will be recorded by a professional videographer.
Anti-Bullying Ambassadors as Agents of Change
The Diana Award, based in London, UK, is a leading non-profit based on the late Princess Diana’s belief that young people have the power to change the world. Its established Anti-Bullying Program teaches young people, school staff and parents the skills to stand up to all forms of harmful bullying behavior in schools, communities and online.
Its proposal includes identifying and training a young person with AD to become an “Anti-Bullying Ambassador” and deliver anti-bullying training in up to 10 selected schools, promoting better understanding and acceptance in schools, communities and online. The training will be filmed to create a case study and future learning resource.
Early Screening of Children with Atopic Dermatitis and Interventions
JAMII LIGHT UP is a non-profit organization, based in Monduli, Tanzania, with the mission of providing educational, financial and emotional support to people with AD, their families and loved ones.
Its proposal aims to introduce screening for children with AD in existing immunization clinics in local communities to ensure appropriate training and support is offered to families impacted by the skin disease. JAMII LIGHT UP will work with parents to develop an AD toolkit that will be used in Family Support Groups to increase understanding of AD and help break social stigma.
International and National Literary/Art Contest for Patients Suffering with Atopic Dermatitis
Atopika, based in Maribor, Slovenia, is a non-government and non-profit organization dedicated to helping people with AD and their families.
Atopika will facilitate a national and international art competition. Atopika will invite children, teenagers and adults with AD, as well as those who have bullied someone with AD, to submit a piece of artwork that brings to life ‘My Skin–My Pain.’ The aim is to promote education, support and empathy for those living with AD. The best contributions in each category will be selected to be featured in a short video that will be promoted via social media and in an online booklet.
"Life Stories" - Adolescence and Atopic Dermatitis
Eczema SUPPORT Australia (ESA), based in Gold Coast, Australia, provides support and connection to people in Australia experiencing a significant impact to their quality of life as a result of atopic dermatitis (AD) and allergies.
ESA will create a “Life Stories” video series, depicting the experience of adolescents with AD. ESA aims to share these stories with local and international media to draw attention to the issue of bullying that those living with AD experience, in addition to driving viral attention on social media.
A second "Agents of Change" AD Challenge will be announced on World AD Day 2020, September 14, asking the community to again respond to how they would locally address a common challenge experienced by those living with AD. The second "Agents of Change" AD Challenge theme will be developed in partnership with the panel of experts.
Find out more about Malena and her life with AD.
i Mount Sinai. Patient Care Atopic Dermatitis. Available at: https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/diseases-conditions/atopic-dermatitis Accessed February 2020.
ii S. Weidinger and N. Novak, Atopic dermatitis. Lancet. 2016;387:1109–1122
iii T. Zuberbier, S. Orlow and A. Paller, Patient perspectives on the management of atopic dermatitis, J Allergy Clin Immunol, 2006;118(1):226–232.