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Canadian Arthritis Network releases report on how to care for Canadians suffering from arthritis

According to the Canadian Arthritic Network (CAN), arthritis—a term that includes more than 100 diseases and conditions—affects 4.2 million Canadians, more than half of whom are under the age of 65. Of this number, more than 600,000 are unable to work, and totalling this loss of productivity with health care costs leaves the economic burden of arthritis in Canada at $6.4 billion.  

In response to these already alarming statistics, as well as an aging boomer population, the Canadian Arthritis Network and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) jointly released Canada’s most up-to-date comprehensive report on arthritis: Life with Arthritis in Canada: A personal and public health challenge.

The report surveys the Canadian population suffering from various kinds of arthritis, as well as their caregivers and health care providers, and serves as an update to CAN’s 2003 report, Arthritis in Canada, offering new statistics and more in-depth information about prevention, treatment and management of arthritis. Also included are vignettes written by people with arthritis sharing the challenges they face living with the disease.

“It really sets the ground work for appreciating the big burden arthritis has on the Canadian population, the amount of suffering and disability it causes, as well as the amount of health care used,” says CAN Network Investigator Dr. Elizabeth Badley.

The target audience of the report is broad, from policy makers, to health care practitioners, to those living with arthritis and family members and friends who care for them. The report describes not only approaches to reduce the painful symptoms of arthritis, but also how to prevent the development of some forms of arthritis.

“I think a lot of people hear that arthritis is part of getting old and nothing can be done. And that is not true,” says Dr. Badley. “Its recommendations [for both prevention and treatment] are to maintain a healthy body weight with the right diet and daily exercise, to avoid joint injury and, for all kinds of arthritis, to increase physical activity.”

With a large segment of the population aging into its senior years, these recommendations are all too important. Dr. Badley anticipates that, by 2031, the number of arthritis sufferers in Canada is going to grow dramatically from its current 4.2 million to 6.7 million people. She also highlights the prevalence of arthritis in aboriginal populations, where genetic predisposition, lifestyle choices and access to health care compound the frequency of occurrence and the level of debilitation in arthritis sufferers. 

“Proportionately, more Aboriginal and Métis people have arthritis than non-aboriginal, so this is a major problem in Aboriginal communities that hasn’t, until now, been addressed.”

In the spirit of these revealing statistics regarding the occurrence of arthritis in aboriginal populations, CAN is soon launching a national aboriginal arthritis research initiative that will attempt to build capacity and train health care providers in First Nations communities.

The Canadian Arthritis Network is a not-for-profit organization funded by the Networks of Centres of Excellence to support arthritis research and development, and to facilitate the commercialization of its discoveries. CAN is the single point of contact that links almost 200 leading Canadian arthritis researchers and clinicians, 45 Canadian academic institutions, The Arthritis Society, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, and government.

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