Don’t be surprised if you hear a lot more media and patient buzz about osteoarthritis (OA) in the coming months.
This month the Arthritis Foundation (AF), in collaboration with the Ad Council, launched a $2.1-million ad campaign to educate the public about OA. The campaign, targeting people age 55 years and older, primarily focuses on self-care measures, such as losing weight and exercising, that those with OA can use to manage their disease. The campaign also directs the public to the AF’s Web site for more information. “This effort is to increase awareness of the most common form of arthritis,” says John Klippel, MD, president and CEO of the AF.
Even though OA may be the most common form of arthritis, it is also frequently misunderstood and undiagnosed. “There are 27 million people with OA that is doctor diagnosed, and probably another 47 million people who have undiagnosed OA,” says Patience White, MD, chief public health officer for the AF. “It’ll grow exponentially as the silver tsunami—the Baby Boomers—gets older.” In fact, more than 40 million people are projected to have OA by the year 2030, she adds.
OA is the most common cause of disability and joint failure or replacement, says Dr. Klippel. Those who suffer from it often experience a lessened quality of life, he adds. Many people whose joints ache from OA, however, may incorrectly think they have another form of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA). This situation can lead to confusion and even the wrong approach to treatment. In actuality, there are only 1.3 million people with RA, according to the AF, Dr. White notes.
A large aging population and the common misperception that joint aches are inevitable due to aging or other types of arthritis are two reasons behind the need for an OA campaign, Dr. White says. “Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, but it’s the one with the most myths about it,” she notes.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, but it’s the one with the most myths about it.
—Patience White, MD
The campaign launching this month will feature TV, radio, print, and billboard public service announcements, made possible by approximately $44 million of donated media, Dr. White says. The actual campaign is supported by $2.1 million of upfront funds raised by the AF—including $450,000 donated by the ACR.
“Our board felt this campaign was important to increase awareness for all types of arthritis, along with OA, with the end result that patients seek input about lifestyle changes or treatments that may improve their ability to manage their symptomatology,” says ACR President Stanley B. Cohen, MD, medical director of the Metroplex Clinical Research Center and clinical professor of medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas.