Women’s Health Group Mobilizes to Combat Arthritis

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Source: The Society for Women’s Health Research

Compared to men, American women are experiencing higher rates of arthritis and suffer disproportionately from the pain and reduced range of motion associated with this chronic condition. In response, a leading women’s health organization is taking steps to help the more than 20 million osteoarthritis sufferers in this country, most of whom are women, fight back.

At a news conference in New York, the Society for Women’s Health Research joined forces with television personality and arthritis sufferer Debbie Allen to launch “Living Well With Arthritis,” a public education campaign about the symptoms and management of osteoarthritis, the most prevalent form of arthritis.

Osteoarthritis affects almost 30 percent of women and 17 percent of men over the age of 60, according to research that documents diagnoses of the disease based on patient histories. Based on these figures, women account for approximately 63 percent of osteoarthritis sufferers 60 and older.

The campaign is designed to change the pervasive mindset that arthritis isn’t really a serious health problem requiring increased public attention.

The Society’s new campaign also challenges the widespread belief that little can be done to alleviate the pain and disability of arthritis. Although there is no cure for this rheumatologic disease, more is known about effectively managing arthritis symptoms than ever before.

“The need to mobilize Americans to learn about and treat their arthritis pain has never been greater,” said Phyllis Greenberger, president and chief executive officer of the Society for Women’s Health Research. “Approximately 60 percent of those with arthritis are women, making this one of the many conditions that affects women more than men. Only by redefining arthritis as a condition that can be effectively managed will we be able to encourage more women to be more proactive in seeking early detection and proper treatment.”

The Society will advance the findings of medical guidelines recently issued by the American College of Rheumatology* and the American Pain Society for the treatment of osteoarthritis. Following the principles of evidence- based medicine, these guidelines recommend the combination of exercise, weight loss and over-the-counter pain relievers for treating mild to moderate arthritis pain. The guidelines also suggest starting with a simple analgesic, like acetaminophen, because of its efficacy, safety profile, over-the-counter availability and low cost.

New TV Spot, Web Information

The Society’s campaign will use multiple information channels, including television announcements and a special section on the organization’s Web site – www.womenshealthresearch.org, to deliver solutions-oriented information.

A 30 second television public service announcement, featuring Allen as she goes through a series of combination dance steps, will begin airing on stations this spring. The spot urges the public to learn the “right combinations” when taking arthritis pain medicines along with other drugs to minimize the possibility of drug-drug interactions. The spot was donated to the campaign by McNeil Consumer & Specialty Pharmaceuticals, which provided funding to the Society to develop the campaign and to distribute the spot.

Allen, who has osteoarthritis in her feet and shoulders, has agreed to serve as the campaign spokesperson and speak directly to women about her own experiences with arthritis. “Before I got help, I felt like a prisoner in my own skin,” Allen explained. “But once I was diagnosed and started treating my arthritis, I realized that I could lead a normal active life, despite the disease. I want to urge everyone who suffers from joint pain to learn the facts about arthritis, so they can take the steps to live full and productive lives.”

New Survey Reveals Need for Education, Finds Many Misperceptions About Managing Arthritis Pain

The campaign is supported by new survey data, which point to a major knowledge gap about arthritis and how to treat the joint pain associated with this condition. Conducted for the Society for Women’s Health Research by Harris Interactive, the survey of 1,016 adults aged 18 and over finds that Americans have little understanding of the major symptoms of arthritis and who is at risk for this disabling condition.

Even though all forms of arthritis collectively affect nearly 70 million people, less than half of those polled (46 percent) say they are familiar with the symptoms of arthritis and the vast majority (80 percent) don’t know that the most prevalent form of arthritis (osteoarthritis) generally occurs in people over age 60. Moreover, two-thirds of those questioned (64 percent) believe that arthritis affects men and women equally, when in actuality the majority of arthritis cases are diagnosed in women.

Regarding treating arthritis pain, the survey finds that even those with the disease (40 percent of those polled) have very little understanding of what medical experts recommend and about the need for caution when combining arthritis medicines with over-the-counter and prescription drugs used to treat other health conditions. The survey also points to the need to clarify the role of inflammation in treating the joint pain associated with osteoarthritis. While medical experts have yet to agree on the role that inflammation plays in the pain of osteoarthritis, almost eight in ten consumers (78 percent) still see inflammation as the cause of their pain and, therefore, may be taking medicines that are not needed and may produce harmful side effects.

“An important message of this public education effort is to encourage arthritis sufferers to learn about the reasons for their pain so they can treat their symptoms effectively and with as little side effects as possible,” said Deborah S. Litman, M.D., fellow, American College of Rheumatology and an advisor to the campaign. “One of the most exciting changes in recent years has been the growing understanding that the patient has an important role to play in the management of his or her arthritis.”

Arthritis is a Major Women’s Health Concern

Besides striking many more women than men, arthritis also takes a major toll on women’s lives. Health-related quality of life measures, such as days without severe pain and difficulty performing everyday activities such as housekeeping and leisure activities, are consistently worse for women with osteoarthritis and other forms of arthritis than for men.

“We are dedicated to helping women live better and healthier,” Greenberger said. “By educating them about arthritis, we can help the many women who are now in pain to be active and enjoy their lives.”
The Society for Women’s Health Research is the nation’s only non-profit organization whose mission is to improve the health of all women through research, education and advocacy.

Founded in 1990, the Society brought to national attention the need for appropriate inclusion of women in major medical research studies and the need for more information about conditions affecting women disproportionately, predominately, or differently than men. The Society advocates increased funding for research on women’s health; encourages the study of sex differences that may affect the prevention, diagnosis and treatment; promotes the inclusion of women in medical research studies; and informs women, providers, policy makers and media about contemporary women’s health issues. Visit the Society’s Web site at www.womenshealthresearch.org for more information.

* The American College of Rheumatology is an independent, professional, medical and scientific society that does not guarantee, warrant or endorse any commercial product or service.

News Source: PR Newswire

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