Innovating for Continence: Simon Foundation Conference

Jasmine Schmidt Health Guide
  • I’m writing from the conference titled Innovating for Continence: The Engineering Challenge sponsored by the Simon Foundation for Continence.

    We just got through an enlightening and heartfelt patient panel featuring seven individuals with incontinence from all walks of life. Included on the panel was a woman who became incontinent after childbirth; a man who became incontinent as a result of a prostatectomy; and older woman with stress urinary incontinence; a man with a neurogenic bladder as the result of a car accident; and a woman with multiple sclerosis.

    One panelist described incontinence as “just a part of life,” while someone else said it “pretty much ruined my life.” These different views and backgrounds are exactly what make a conference of this sort so necessary.

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    A “one size fits all” cure-all will not work for incontinence. Every one of the panelists seemed to managing their incontinence in a slightly different manor. One woman used to find great relief from medication, but that no longer seems to have an effect. Another panelist has used pelvic floor exercises to help manage her condition, as she is unable to take the medications due to other physical conditions.

    One woman who also uses a wheelchair due to spinal cord injury relies on a catheter and leg bag. The gentleman with the neurogenic bladder (who also uses a chair) prefers to use absorbent pads. I am convinced that there are as many unique combinations of treatment and management solutions as there are people with incontinence (and at 33 million in the US with urinary incontinence, and countless more with fecal – that’s a lot!)


    These panelists sat before an audience of 150 engineers and product developers and bravely and eloquently spoke about the every day struggles that they face while living with incontinence. These seven people were embarrassed about their condition, and some even preferred not to use their last name, for fear that clients or co-workers would find out. And yet, they felt compelled to share their story and answer personal questions anyhow.

    They named three main reasons for participating in this panel:

    1) To bring the topic of incontinence out of the closet and remove the stigma surrounding the topic

    2) To promote the prevention of incontinence starting as early as educating children about their pelvic floor muscles (the Simon Foundation first brought this topic to light with their ground-breaking conference in 1997, and later this year the National Institutes of Health will be holding a State of the Science Conference)

    3) To aid in the process of inspiring and creating new and improved technologies for managing incontinence.


    For many people, the fear of public speaking in general is enough to keep them from standing before a group 150 people: throw in talking about personal bladder habits and forget it! And yet these individuals found the courage to do so, in the hopes of contributing to a lasting legacy of culture change and superior continence care for not only themselves, but also for future generations.

  • We should all be so willing to go out on a limb to support the causes that matter most to us in life!

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Published On: April 23, 2007