Reducing the Burden of Osteoarthritis:
A National Call to Action

As a nation, we are experiencing an under-recognized public health crisis: an epidemic of osteoarthritis (OA). Today, 27 million people –1 in almost every 10 American adults1 – have this serious disease that mainly affects the hands, knees and hips in adults. Even more alarming, OA rates are expected to increase in the years ahead as Baby Boomers age and the effects of the obesity epidemic begin to manifest.

Osteoarthritis is widespread and costly – both to individuals and to the nation. Many Americans with OA face chronic pain and functional limitations, which often results in job loss and reduced quality of life. OA pain can also inhibit physical activity which interferes with the management of other chronic conditions.  Our country suffers, too. It is dragged down by the social and economic costs of OA. This disease is the most common cause of disability, and it contributes to escalating health care spending and limits national productivity.

Unfortunately, OA is met with complacency. Despite the great individual and national costs of OA, little attention is given to this disease. This is due in part to the misconceptions that arthritis causes only “mild aches and pains,” is an inevitable part of aging, and nothing that can be done to prevent or relieve it. 

Yet in some cases, OA can be prevented and its consequences can be minimized.  Evidence shows that injury prevention and weight loss can prevent OA from occurring, and weight loss or maintenance, physical activity and self-management education can reduce the symptoms and progression of OA.

There is an urgent need for action to reduce the burden of OA. That is why the Arthritis Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued a blueprint for action to address osteoarthritis, which is detailed in A National Public Health Agenda for Osteoarthritis, 2010. (http://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/osteoarthritis.htm)

Now the Arthritis Foundation and the CDC are mobilizing a national coalition of concerned organizations. This coalition is committed to elevating OA as a national health priority and promoting effective policy solutions that aim to address the individual and national toll of OA. In addition, this coalition, with the public health community, will work to ensure people with OA have the access, skills and capacity to benefit from effective and proven interventions.

For more information, contact Melanie Thompson at mthompson@arthritis.org or (202) 887-2916.

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  1. Arthritis Foundation: A Public Health Agenda for Osteoarthritis 2010.
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