Inflammatory rheumatic diseases, with arthritis, cause more disability in the United States than heart disease, cancer, or diabetes. One in 12 women and one in 20 men will develop a rheumatic disease in their lifetime. These diseases often strike in the prime of life and can cause joint and organ destruction, severe pain, disability, and even death.
This isn’t new information to rheumatologists and rheumatology health professionals, but many of the influential groups and people who make decisions that affect the rheumatology community don’t have this knowledge.
Enter the ACR’s new public relations campaign.
Need for Education
“People don’t understand what rheumatologists do and why rheumatology is important,” says ACR Communications and Marketing Committee member Eric Ruderman, MD, professor of medicine–rheumatology at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
Many within rheumatology agree with Dr. Ruderman, and the talk of a public relations (PR) campaign aimed to educate others about rheumatic diseases and rheumatologists has been discussed for the last few years. On September 19, in conjunction with the ACR’s Advocates for Arthritis fly-in, the College will launch a targeted campaign to do just that.
“I think the campaign is necessary because of the significant impact these diseases have on the lives of those affected, the complexity of the many new treatments that are emerging, and the ever-changing pressures to provide cost-effective care that provides the best outcome,” says ACR Communications and Marketing Committee member Jody Hargrove, MD, a rheumatologist at Arthritis and Rheumatology Consultants in Edina, Minn.
“The campaign has three main objectives,” says Erin Latimer, the ACR’s director of public relations.
“We aim to elevate the importance of rheumatology, increase understanding of the work that rheumatologists do, and lay a foundation of awareness and understanding that creates support for more favorable public policy.”
It’s About Simple Tasks
Called Simple Tasks, the ACR campaign targets lawmakers and administration officials, referring physicians and physician groups, and other influencers who make decisions that affect rheumatology, such as think tanks and advocacy groups, Dr. Ruderman says.
The Simple Tasks concept and related advertisements illustrate the point that the simplest of tasks—such as brushing teeth, eating, buttoning clothes, or driving a car—can become impossible for someone with a rheumatic disease. For example, one ad shows a toothbrush that is bent out of shape (above), while another shows a fork with twisted tines (at right), visually illustrating these simple tasks aren’t so simple for people with rheumatic diseases. The campaign also points out that rheumatic diseases do not only affect older people—a common misconception, Dr. Hargrove finds. In fact, rheumatic diseases affect nearly 300,000 children in the United States; many other sufferers are in the midst of their careers and having and raising children.
The Capitol Hill Audience
During events like Advocates for Arthritis, representatives from the ACR will speak with lawmakers about how certain legislation can help provide better care for patients with rheumatic diseases. “Policymakers are a small slice of the general public, so unless they have experience with someone in their family who has a rheumatic disease, they usually know virtually nothing about them,” says Dr. Hargrove.