Making Progress Against Arthritis
Education and Advocacy One out of eight Canadians experience a musculoskeletal health issue leading to long term pain and physical disability. Luckily, there are resources to help in cope each day.
While the challenge of arthritis has never been greater, it is equally true that our ability to mitigate its impact on our lives is growing.
That effort begins by overcoming the myths and misconceptions that, for far too long, have blinded us into thinking of arthritis as an inevitable part of life. Thankfully, this is starting to change. Our goal now is to see that change through: to erase the pain of arthritis that touches far too many lives.
More sophisticated approaches and the use of new technology are enabling researchers to study the disease more closely and accurately than ever. Today, we see innovation at every corner — from the development of a smartphone app to manage pain to the study of enzymes to reduce pain and inflammation.
Improving conditions through biologic drugs
Over the past 20 years, the rise of biologic drugs has radically improved conditions for people living with inflammatory forms of arthritis. We need more research to further these gains and to identify similar breakthroughs that will benefit the millions living with osteoarthritis.
We remain optimistic in the face of stark numbers:
In Canada, arthritis affects 20 percent of women and 13 percent of men, inflicting severe joint pain, inflammation and fatigue.
In a generation, the number of Canadians with arthritis will nearly double from the current estimate of 4.6 million to 7.5 million in 2036.
Arthritis remains a leading cause of disability and costs our economy an estimated $33 billion a year — or 2.7 percent of our annual gross domestic product.
Forging forward with the “3C” strategy
Far from standing still, the Canadian arthritis community is surging forward to help people with arthritis live well while we seek to end it.
The Arthritis Society is facing the challenge head on by targeting a “3C” strategy:
1) Cure: fund research that unlocks the secrets of arthritis and opens the door to treatments and prevention.
2) Care: educate, train, and assist more frontline health care professionals to treat arthritis.
3) Community: create a network of support that helps people affected by arthritis learn how to live full, rewarding lives.
Individuals living with arthritis clearly have a role to play too; we see this everyday as people become more assertive in their day-to-day approach to disease management. A holistic view is to embrace two approaches: a ‘treatment plan’ and a ‘life plan’. A treatment plan is tailored to one’s specific condition and, based on the advice of a physician, may include strategies such as access to advanced medications and top-notch care. A life plan is about learning how to adapt one’s lifestyle to better manage arthritis symptoms, with the benefit of quality support and education services.
These approaches are keys to self-empowerment and tempering the effects of arthritis now and in the long term.
This progress has come despite the obstacles posed by common myths about arthritis. Many still believe arthritis is a natural, almost inevitable aspect of aging. This is entirely false: arthritis is not a given, not by a long shot.
Many believe that arthritis is an old person’s disease. In truth, no segment of our society is safe from its devastating impact, illustrated no better than by the 24,000 Canadian children and teens living with arthritis. From infants to seniors, arthritis does not discriminate, affecting many and ignoring none.
For all our progress, arthritis remains a serious chronic disease that robs people of their mobility, their freedom, their ability to earn a living and, often, their capacity to enjoy the simple, easy pleasures of daily life.
Clearly, we face challenges. That’s why we dedicate considerable energy to overcoming these myths and misconceptions. Gaining a clear, shared understanding of the disease is the first step to making real progress against it.