From 6 a.m. EDT on May 19 through 5 a.m. EDT on May 21, a worldwide virtual convention will be held focusing on autoimmune arthritis. Through the Internet, patients and supporters will be able to learn more about their disease while interacting with others from many countries.
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“World Autoimmune Arthritis Day [WAAD] was created as a virtual online convention for patients with autoimmune arthritis diseases, their friends, and families,” says Tiffany Westrich, founder and CEO of the International Autoimmune Arthritis Movement, the official host of the event. “It will be running for 47 hours to encompass all time zones around the world. This is a convention where all patients can come together in one place to obtain information and education on their diseases and how to manage them.”
Westrich’s group reached out to other advocacy organizations, groups, and bloggers from around the world to help give patients a single place to find resources available no matter where they live. At press time there were 16 other groups signed up worldwide, with possibly as many as two dozen participating by the time of the event.
“We also will have awareness of disease and management information available for supporters,” says Westrich. “People who support autoimmune arthritis patients don’t always understand the disease. There will be literature available just for them to know what the patient is going through.”
There will be a resource center available with chats scheduled throughout the event. It features three live presentations and 13 others on demand, all led by patient experts. They will be archived on the website, giving access to those who cannot “attend” on WAAD.
In addition, the convention will host a chat room as a virtual lounge, allowing patients and others from all over the world to exchange ideas and information. Every six hours, there will be live call-to-action posts encouraging participants to do a task promoting public awareness of the differences between autoimmune arthritis and the more common degenerative forms.
Registration Available and Free
Those who wish to participate will be asked to register, but there will be no cost for registration. Signing up can be done through the website at www.worldautoimmunearthritisday.org, and gives attendees access to the event schedule and e-mail alerts of of event changes.
Finally, the virtual convention will also include surveys that are aimed to gather information from the patients’ perspective.
“All of the information accumulated will then be analyzed and recorded for possible use in research and to create educational materials for primary care physicians, clinics, and hospitals,” explains Westrich. “Our goal is to differentiate types of arthritis in order to lessen the confusion and misunderstanding that surrounds these diseases—this includes those in medical fields outside of rheumatology. If we can provide information that allows for a better understanding of the symptoms associated with these diseases, then patients may be referred to rheumatologists earlier and thus receive treatment earlier.”
Kurt Ullman is a freelance writer based in Indiana.