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The epidemiology and experience of atopic eczema during childhood: a discussion paper on the implications of current knowledge for health care, public health policy and research
  1. Mairéad Fennessy,
  2. Sue Coupland,
  3. Jennie Popay,
  4. Karen Naysmith
  1. National Primary Care Research and Development Centre/Institute for Public Health Research and Policy, University of Salford
  1. Professor Popay, Institute for Public Health Research and Policy University of Salford, 4th Floor, Humphrey Booth House, The Crescent, Salford M5 4QA (j.m.popay{at}


Atopic eczema is a chronic skin condition affecting between 5% and 20% of children aged up to 11 years at one time or other. Research suggests that prevalence is increasing and various environmental factors have been implicated in the aetiology. While often seen to be a minor problem, research suggests that it can cause considerable disruption to the lives of children and their carers and involves significant cost for the family and health care systems. The current consensus is that the majority of cases of atopic eczema are most appropriately managed within primary care. However, management of the condition is problematic because diagnosis is often difficult. Consultations tend to focus on the physical aspects of the problems neglecting the psychosocial, while treatment remains mainly palliative and can be as diverse as the condition itself. More appropriate and effective primary care management and support for children with atopic eczema and their carers will only be developed if health professionals become more aware of the social context of the disease and the impact on the lives of those affected. Public health responses focusing on primary prevention are also needed. This paper reviews a diverse literature on the epidemiology of the condition, the way in which it affects the lives of children and their carers and the factors that shape their help seeking decisions. The aim is to contribute to a more substantial knowledge base for public health and primary care developments and to point to areas for future research

  • atopic eczema
  • primary care
  • lay management

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  • Conflicts of interest: none.