One of the most important problems facing the United Ostomy Association is declining membership. Although the disaffiliation of the Canadian Chapters did reduce membership, there are several other reasons for the decline.
The numbers of permanent ostomies that are being created are getting fewer due to earlier detection of colon and bladder cancer. This allows for less drastic surgery and more resections to be performed. New developments in the surgical techniques and the increase in numbers of continent procedure surgeries for both fecal and urinary diversions are also contributing factors. Dr. Bruce Orkin, a colorectal surgeon and Associate Professor of Surgery at George Washington University Medical Center stated that in his practice 90% of his surgeries for ulcerative colitis are continent procedures and only 10% result in a permanent ileostomy.
To maintain a healthy and progressive organization the United Ostomy Association must change and it is changing. In the not too distant future, there will be alliances with other organizations such as the American Cancer Society, and the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation, both of whom share some of our common goals.
Within the UOA more emphasis will be placed on meeting the needs of a new and diverse membership. New programs geared to these specific needs are being formed. Programs such as POC (Parents of Ostomy Children), the Continent Procedures group, the Youth Rally, and the GLO (Gay and Lesbian Ostomates) will bring new members and help to keep our organization strong and progressive.
However, the new affiliations and the creation of special interest groups is not enough to guarantee success. We, the members of our Stillwater-Ponca City chapter, need to "get the word out." We are the best advertisement. We must emphasize and publicize that our local chapter and the UOA, through its programs, can help in the rehabilitation of persons with ostomies.
An important part of maintaining a healthy chapter is your attendance at meetings and participation in its programs. The strength of the chapter is only as good as the enthusiasm of its members.
Remember, we are members of the Stillwater-Ponca City chapter because at some point we looked for and found the support, friendship and help that we needed after our surgery. Let's give some of that support back, so that we and the UOA can continue to prosper and give help to all those who will have ostomy surgeries in the future--so they may be "Reborn From the Ashes of Disease."