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Arthritis Foundation Releases Progress Report.

No One Made the Dean's List

ATLANTA, May 3, 2004 PRNewswire

Is arthritis in America misunderstood? Yes, unfortunately not only by the lay public, but by physicians and legislators as well. On Tuesday, May 4, the Arthritis Foundation will release the findings of its snapshot of arthritis in America, illustrating that the nation must do a better job of increasing awareness about arthritis and the steps that can lessen its impact.

Arthritis in America: A National Report Card is based on opinions from experts within the arthritis field, scientific literature and more than 50 years of experience working with people who are living with arthritis. The foundation chose to focus on three key areas, including: *

America's understanding of arthritis and misperceptions of arthritis Grade = C

* Physicians' use of a comprehensive treatment approach for arthritis Grade = C *

Ability for Americans to access appropriate, comprehensive medical care Grade = D

The Effects of Arthritis on America The grades support the underlying thought that many within the arthritis community have had for years -- most people don't understand how serious arthritis is -- including the personal and economic ramifications it has on our country. Arthritis is the country's leading cause of disability, affecting one in six people, equal to 15 percent of the population. In addition, arthritis affects nearly 300,000 children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number affected will surge to one in five, or nearly 60 million people, by the year 2020, due mainly to the aging of the Baby Boomers. There are also financial as well as personal ramifications that must be considered. A 1992 study found that arthritis costs the nation $65 billion each year -- approximately 1.1 percent of the gross national product and equal to a moderate recession.

America's understanding of arthritis and misperceptions of arthritis --Grade = C

The Arthritis Foundation Report Card emphasizes that most Americans believe in the myths associated with arthritis, such as arthritis affects only the elderly; there is nothing that can be done about arthritis, so they must learn to live with it; and arthritis is only minor aches and pains. Many are unaware of the signs and symptoms of arthritis. These myths are keeping people from taking action against their arthritis. According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

* 40 percent who say they have chronic joint symptoms have not beendiagnosed by a doctor * Up to 57 percent of those, who are doctor diagnosed, are not currentlyreceiving treatment For many Americans, it is what they do not know that can hurt them. Irreversible joint damage often occurs within the first two years of disease onset, making an early, accurate diagnosis coupled with an aggressive, comprehensive treatment plan critical to limiting disease impact both physically and financially. There also are an increasing number of prevention steps that can be taken, including maintaining an appropriate weight and avoiding joint injuries.

Physicians' use of a comprehensive treatment approach for arthritis -- Grade = C

While physicians work hard to render the best possible care, the Arthritis Foundation believes many primary care physicians are facing competing pressures of reduced time to spend with patients and minimal training in arthritis as a specialty. This fact is compounded by the continual need to stay abreast of rapid improvements in the treatment of arthritis. A number of studies have evaluated practice patterns of primary care physicians. These studies show that many primary care physicians do not use a comprehensive approach to treatment or are unaware of the most recent and more aggressive strategies for limiting disease impact in people with arthritis, which can lead to increased deformity, disability and cost (both medical and personal). Rheumatologists -- arthritis specialists -- by virtue of their special training are more aware of the full spectrum of treatment options and take a more aggressive approach in treating people with arthritis.

The Arthritis Foundation believes it and the nation must do a better job in assisting physicians in addressing the full needs of patients with arthritis and in informing them of the latest in arthritis treatments, including the use of aggressive and comprehensive treatment plans for people with arthritis. In fact, studies show that although medication is critical to treating arthritis, encouraging people to take an active role as a partner in their own health care, such as attending support groups, exercise classes and accessing other complementary therapies, is just as important.

For example, the Arthritis Self-Help Course provided by the Arthritis Foundation has proven to reduce pain by 20 percent and doctor visits by 40 percent. By teaching people with arthritis a self-management philosophy they are able to take control of the disease and lessen its impact on their life. As arthritis becomes a growing problem within various medical practices, more physicians are recognizing the severity of arthritis and the need for a broader approach toward treatment.

The Arthritis Foundation is working with the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons, the American Academy of Family Physicians, as well as other physician groups.

Ability for Americans to access appropriate, comprehensive medical care -- Grade = D

This problem doesn't rest solely on the shoulders of the American public or primary care physicians. For many, the ability to obtain access to appropriate care is where the problem can start -- referrals to appropriate physicians/rheumatologists, cost and access to medications and adequate insurance to pay for various treatment needs. The federal government has taken a positive step recently by recognizing the impact of arthritis through allocating funding to various arthritis- related projects, such as the National Arthritis Action Plan. In fact, this Plan is a model of partnership between the Arthritis Foundation and groups that shape health policy and legislation, both locally and nationally, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases, and others within the public health arena. The Foundation plans to continue and expand its successful partnerships in order to meet its mission. The Arthritis Foundation also is gathering a special Think Tank this month to investigate in-depth issues surrounding cost and access to medications to better advocate for appropriate positions on behalf of those with the disease.

Learn about arthritis by contacting the expert -- the Arthritis Foundation. Call 1-800-283-7800 or visit the web site at . * Attend a public forum, self-help class, Web chat or support group. * Educate others with arthritis or undiagnosed joint pain. * Write to government representatives to demand more action against arthritis. The Mission The mission of the Arthritis Foundation is to support research to find the cure for and prevention of arthritis and to improve the quality of life of those affected by arthritis. For arthritis information, call the toll-free Arthritis Foundation Information Line at 800-283-7800, or visit the foundation's Web site at .

Source: Arthritis Foundation CO: Georgia Arthritis Foundation


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