HSS Leads in Advancing the National Arthritis Agenda

Adapted from the Spring 2011 issue of HealthConnection


Laura Robbins, DSW
Senior Vice President, Education & Academic Affairs
Designated Institutional Officer, GME
Associate Scientist, Research Division
Associate Research Professor of Social Work in Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College

There’s good reason to make osteoarthritis a national health priority: Its association with aging means it is expected to rise in prevalence, as increasing numbers of baby boomers reach their 60’s. It is expected to affect some 67 million adults in America by 2030 and is already the leading cause of disability, keeping otherwise healthy people from living more productive lives.

Osteoarthritis (OA) currently costs our nation more than $128 billion in direct medical costs (such as joint replacement surgery and other medical care) and indirect costs (including missed work days and disability payments). According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that figure could soar even higher as more people affected by the disease become unable to care for themselves or work.

This is precisely why, in early 2010, the Arthritis Foundation and the Ad Council teamed up to launch a national osteoarthritis campaign. Called “Moving Is the Best Medicine,” the initiative was created to raise awareness of OA, increase public health education, and advocate for more funding for groundbreaking research for a disease that some people just don’t take seriously enough. The national campaign brings together the Arthritis Foundation with government organizations that are supporting and conducting osteoarthritis research, such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the CDC.

The National Agenda
Many of the messages of the campaign focus on what you can do to reduce your risk of arthritis or ease its symptoms if you already have it — from embarking on an exercise program to adopting a healthy diet to achieve a healthy weight. As its first year comes to a close, the campaign has benchmarked its success, with increased awareness of OA nationwide promoted on billboards, in TV and radio public service announcements, and in news stories.

The aim of the campaign’s second phase is “Arthritis Pain Is Unacceptable,” with the goal to drive home the seriousness of arthritis. It will urge people with joint pain to see a rheumatologist to assess the cause of their symptoms and to secure the most appropriate treatment. In addition, the OA advocates are asking Congress to increase research funding by 12 percent to the NIH, to support Department of Defense arthritis research programs with $8 million, and to support the CDC’s arthritis research efforts with an additional $10 million.

HSS: Leading in the Cause
Hospital for Special Surgery is a leader in clinical care and research in arthritis and is continuing its efforts to promote the OA national agenda. HSS’s multidisciplinary Osteoarthritis Steering Council has directed several initiatives, including:

  • HSS Osteoarthritis Summit: Frontiers in OA Research, Prevention and Care (June 17-18, 2011). This conference will bring together at HSS for the first time a comprehensive multidisciplinary group of world-renowned scientists, physicians, and industry representatives from the United States, Canada, and Europe to discuss all aspects of osteoarthritis and to develop a consensus document on future directions for research, prevention, and treatment. The proceedings of the meeting will be published in the HSS Journal (the Musculoskeletal Journal of Hospital for Special Surgery, which publishes peer-reviewed articles that contribute to the advancement of the knowledge of musculoskeletal diseases).
  • State of the Science in the Prevention & Management of Osteoarthritis (July 14-15, 2011). This conference is designed for nurses, who are often the first point of contact for patients. This will be a consensus workshop of experts from around the country. Partnering with the American Journal of Nursing, the meeting will result in a special issue of the journal, reaching over 10,000 nurses to educate them about OA and their role in helping patients with the disease. 
  • Ongoing evidence-based community wellness and early intervention programs, from t’ai chi, yoga, and Pilates to our annual Osteoarthritis Seminar and Arthritis Foundation Lifestyle Management Program.  
  • Partnering with community organizations to promote early intervention and teach community-based groups about osteoarthritis. One example is a key partnership with the Retired Teachers Association of the United Federation of Teachers on Osteoarthritis Prevention.

As part of our Community Service Plan (a strategic plan required of all New York State hospitals), health professionals are assessing the needs of our communities, with a major emphasis on OA and other musculoskeletal diseases. Most recently, we launched our OA website with updated information.

Osteoarthritis is an enormous socioeconomic burden on our society. As consumers and patients, there are steps we can all take to lessen that burden for individuals, communities and the nation as a whole.

For more information, visit www.hss.edu/osteoarthritis or http://www.fightarthritispain.org/

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