World Arthritis Day
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but you probably already knew that. Pink ribbons are everywhere and on everything this month, from yogurt and granola bars in your grocery store to NFL players and commercials on your TV. As a woman myself (with breasts that I want to stay healthy!) I think National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a fantastic way to promote awareness, raise funds, and provide greater access to screening and other important services. After all, about 1 in 8 (12%) of women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetimes.
But did you know that Saturday, October 12th is World Arthritis Day? And that 1 in 5 (22%) of adults in the United States suffer from arthritis? Or that there are more than 300,000 children growing up with arthritis? Or that arthritis and its related complications can sometimes be life-threatening?
Unfortunately, most people who hear the word “arthritis” picture grandma’s hands hurting too much to knit, or perhaps grandpa walking with a cane. They generally don’t picture a young mother chasing after her kids, or a teenager hanging out with her friends, or a baby learning how to walk. But the reality is that all of these people can suffer from arthritis. Arthritis can affect anyone at any age. The young mother may need to inject herself with a biologic medication to keep up with her kids. The teenager may already have titanium hips. And the baby may never know a life without arthritis. The word “arthritis” actually refers to more than 100 different diseases and conditions that destroy joints, bones, muscles, cartilage, and other tissues. Though the stereotype is that arthritis is a disease of old age, in reality 65% of the people with arthritis are under the age of 65.
To promote awareness about arthritis, World Arthritis Day was established in 1996 by an international association of arthritis organizations called Arthritis and Rheumatism International. It is observed on October 12th in more than 50 countries.
The goals of World Arthritis Day are:
- To raise awareness about arthritis within the general public and the medical community.
- To influence public policy by making sure decision-makers are aware of the burden arthritis causes and the steps that can be taken to ease it.
- To ensure that people with arthritis and their caregivers have the support that they need.
Arthritis affects several hundred million people worldwide and is the leading cause of disability in the United States. Living with arthritis has a massive impact on a person’s daily life. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 25% of adults with arthritis report severe daily pain and 45% report that arthritis limits their ability to participate in daily activities.
In the United States, arthritis costs the economy $128 billion annually. By 2030 the CDC estimates that 67 million adults in the United States will suffer from arthritis. We need to encourage our Members of Congress to step forward and take action to deal with arthritis by ending discrimination against specialty tier medications, increasing access to pediatric rheumatologists, funding arthritis research, and making arthritis a national priority.
Websites like RheumatoidArthritis.net help provide these much needed support resources. If you have RA you can use this website to find information about symptoms, treatments, diet and nutrition, exercise, and community support. The Arthritis Foundation also provides resources and support for many other types of arthritis.
The theme of World Arthritis Day 2013 is healthy ageing for people growing up and growing older with arthritis. October 12th will mark the launch of a new international competition called “Vision 2043” which will invite people to submit creative ideas, innovations, or grand plans that can help transform the lives of people with arthritis. The goal is to make the world more inclusive for people with arthritis, now and into the future. Participants will be able to submit ideas across a range of mediums. For more information about the competition, please visit the World Arthritis Day website.
With statistics like 1 in 5 adults it’s a good chance that someone you know and love suffers from arthritis. Or maybe you suffer from arthritis yourself. Or perhaps both! So please join in to help raise awareness about arthritis on October 12th. Share your story. Tell people you meet about the statistics. Explain to someone who doesn’t know that kids get arthritis too. And, for just one day, why not pin a blue ribbon next to your pink one?