The First-Ever Rheumatic Disease Awareness Month!

May is National Arthritis Awareness Month. July is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month. World Arthritis Day is October 12th. While all of these awareness events do shed some light on what it is like to live with rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatic diseases have never had a unified national health observance to educate patients, physicians, and the general public. Until now!

September 2016 marks the very first Rheumatic Disease Awareness Month, created by the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), the leading association representing rheumatologists and rheumatology health professionals, and their public awareness campaign, Simple Tasks. Rheumatic Disease Awareness Month seeks to improve public knowledge of rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, gout, and the more than 100 lesser-known conditions that full under the umbrella term of “rheumatic disease” or “arthritis.”

Those of us living with rheumatoid arthritis often know from experience that the general public has some serious misconceptions about RA and what it is really like to live with this disease. We know that there is a need to increase public understanding and awareness of the symptoms, risk factors, treatment options, and health impacts of life with RA. We also know that we need to increase understanding about the other impacts of rheumatic diseases that go beyond health – such as lifestyle impacts, emotional impacts, and economic impacts.

The theme for this year’s Rheumatic Disease Awareness Month is: “Hundreds of diseases. One voice.” This theme encourages us to work together, to speak as one voice, to help educate the public about the realities of rheumatic diseases and what it is like to live with one. This month represents an opportunity for us to advocate for our own health and well-being and to help advance healthcare policies that give us access to safe, affordable, and effective healthcare.

So what can you do to help promote Rheumatic Disease Awareness Month? Share this article with your friends and family members – or perhaps direct them to this article so that they can learn about the difference between rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Check out and share the video from actress and arthritis advocate Jennie Garth. Contact your lawmaker to encourage them to acknowledge Rheumatic Disease Awareness month and fight for laws that provide us with better care. Share a #RheumSelfie on social media.

Hopefully, by working together, we can encourage more understanding and compassion for people living with rheumatic diseases – which will improve the lives of millions of Americans just like us.

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