September Is Rheumatic Disease Awareness Month!

Almost everyone living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) would probably agree: there’s a need to increase public understanding about RA. The general public seems to have some serious misconceptions about what exactly RA is and what it’s really like to live with RA. So many of us would benefit from increased public understanding and awareness of the symptoms, risk factors, treatment options, and health impacts of life with RA. And beyond health, we could also used increased understanding concerning the lifestyle impacts, emotional impacts, and financial impacts we face.

There are a few months a year set aside to provide recognition and promote awareness of what it’s like to live with arthritis. May is National Arthritis Awareness Month, but of course that includes all the different types of arthritis including osteoarthritis (OA). July is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month, but of course that focuses primarily on children. But as of last year we now also have September: Rheumatic Disease Awareness Month (RDAM)!

The purpose of Rheumatic Disease Awareness Month

RDAM was launched just last year by the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), the leading association representing rheumatologists and rheumatology healthcare professionals, and their public awareness campaign, Simple Tasks. The intent of this national health campaign is to improve the public’s understanding of rheumatic diseases, like RA, and to advance the health and well being of the millions of Americans living with these diseases.

The theme of RDAM is “Hundreds of Diseases, One Voice.” This encourages us to work together, speak as one voice, and to help educate the public about the realities of rheumatic diseases and what it’s like to live with one. It’s 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.

This year, sports commentator and former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw is leading the way as the official spokesperson for RDAM. Bradshaw lives with RA himself, and has benefited from early intervention by a rheumatologist. He is reminding everyone, “You don’t have to be an athlete to have sore joints!”

So what can you do to help promote awareness during September? For starters, share this article with your friends and family members – or perhaps direct them to this article so they can learn about the difference between RA and OA. Watch and share this video from Terry Bradshaw, and take the Joint IQ quiz to test your own knowledge of rheumatic diseases (and be entered to win a jersey signed by Bradshaw!). Contact your lawmaker to encourage them to acknowledge RDAM and fight for laws that provide us with better healthcare – the Simple Tasks website offers an easy to use form. Follow the conversation on social media using the hashtag #RDAM.

If we truly act as one voice, 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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