NAAP Goals
Concept of Prevention
Local Activities and Resources
To Learn and Do More
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National Arthritis Action Plan

Three national agencies—the Arthritis Foundation, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—recently joined forces to lead an attack on the public health challenges of arthritis. The result of their collaboration is the National Arthritis Action Plan (NAAP): A Public Health Strategy. The plan represents a combined effort of nearly 90 organizations, including government agencies, voluntary organizations, academic institutions, community interest groups, professional associations, and others with an interest in arthritis prevention and control.

The plan organizes the use of our nation’s health resources to combat the greatest single cause of chronic pain and disability among Americans, while increasing awareness—among the general public, people with arthritis and their families, medical care providers, and policy makers—of the impact of arthritis, what can be done to prevent or delay its onset, and what effective interventions are available to reduce disability and improve the quality of life of people with arthritis. We believe integrating the perspectives, values, and resources of the public health and arthritis communities will allow us to lessen the burden of arthritis on our citizens and our nation.

The National Arthritis Action Plan (NAAP): A Public Health Strategy has six aims:

Increase public awareness of arthritis as the leading cause of disability and an important public health problem
Prevent arthritis whenever possible
Promote early diagnosis and appropriate management for people with arthritis to ensure them the maximum number of years of healthy life
Minimize preventable pain and disability due to arthritis
Support people with arthritis in developing and accessing the resources they need to cope with their disease
Ensure that people with arthritis receive the family, peer and community support they need
The plan takes a public health approach, which means focusing on the impact of a disease on the whole population and the concept of prevention across three levels: primary, secondary and tertiary. For arthritis, prevention involves:

  1. Primary prevention: identifying factors that increase the risk of arthritis and intervening to reduce the occurrence of arthritis;
  2. secondary prevention: assuring early diagnosis of the type of arthritis and appropriate management; and
  3. Tertiary prevention: utilizing interventions, including medical and self-management strategies, to limit the pain, disability and other effects of the disease once it is established.
    Public health also emphasizes collaborative, community-based activities aimed at specific populations. A public health approach includes influencing healthcare systems and providers, and policies that support and can make a difference in reducing the occurrence and impact of diseases and conditions.

To get involved in the NAAP, contact your local chapter for information about activities and efforts in your area.


The National Arthritis Action Plan (NAAP): A Public Health Strategy is the first comprehensive, systematic public health approach to address arthritis nationally. Funding for NAAP activities will come from multiple sources. While the Arthritis Foundation, CDC and other partners are allocating existing resources to fund some strategies, it is hoped that new federal, state and private funds will support other activities. In fact, the Arthritis Foundation urged Congress to establish and fund the CDC Arthritis Program.

The Arthritis Foundation has a longstanding role as the nation’s preeminent advocate for people with arthritis and related conditions. Today, this responsibility permeates the Foundation at all levels and locations and is an important element of the Foundation’s mission.

The role of advocacy is increasingly critical for the Arthritis Foundation. The aging of the population and the corresponding demands on the health system, competition for limited resources within government and private sector programs, and a society that expects a direct role in shaping health care delivery and policy are all factors that make advocacy more important than ever.

The Arthritis Foundation seeks volunteers to work on a variety of issues at the local, state and national level. To become involved in advocacy to support NAAP activities, you can visit the Foundation’s advocacy center or contact your local chapter.

Local Activities and Resources

With the release of the National Arthritis Action Plan (NAAP): A Public Health Strategy in November 1998, the Arthritis Foundation made a commitment to adopting a public health approach to arthritis, emphasizing prevention and early diagnosis and appropriate management of disease to prevent disability. This public health approach means that while the fight against arthritis takes place a single person at a time, we are also fighting arthritis across whole populations, reaching more people with our programs and services, ensuring that more people can use our services and information.

But this shift in perspective also brings challenges, and the recognition that the Arthritis Foundation cannot possibly meet the challenge of arthritis alone. The combined leadership of the Arthritis Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials was needed to get this plan ready for its release in November 1998.

We’ve come a long way since the official release of the Plan. Through the advocacy efforts of the Arthritis Foundation, today CDC has its own Arthritis Program: a full-time team of public health experts. The growth of CDC’s program signals a shift in perspective for public health, from focusing on leading causes of death to seriously addressing leading causes of disability and improving quality of life. Arthritis is now an established program area in the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at CDC, taking its place among the major chronic diseases being addressed by public health at the national level.

Through the advocacy efforts of the Arthritis Foundation, Congress voted a $10 million appropriation to CDC for fiscal year 1999 to develop a national, public health program on arthritis. In April 1999, CDC announced a "request for proposals" to fund arthritis programs in state health departments. To help develop proposals and foster partnerships between Arthritis Foundation chapters and public health, the Arthritis Foundation and CDC brought together our chapters to meet with their state public health representatives.

For many states, the "Building Partnerships to Address Arthritis" conference was the first time the Arthritis Foundation and public health had ever met, but the response generated by this meeting was incredible. CDC received 49 proposals to develop state and territorial public health programs to reduce the burden of arthritis in America – an unprecedented response to a new program from CDC.

For the Arthritis Foundation, this enthusiastic response from states to CDC also meant unprecedented opportunities for partnerships, since the request for proposals specifically encouraged collaboration with Arthritis Foundation chapters in the development of new programs. Through Congress’s appropriation to CDC, 38 states have received grants this year to establish and develop arthritis programs and build partnerships with the Arthritis Foundation and other organizations interested in arthritis. People with arthritis will have increased access to arthritis programs; health professionals will be assured of more accurate data collection to understand the patterns of arthritis in our population; and all persons affected by or interested in arthritis will benefit from continuing, sustainable commitment of time, energy and resources to preventing arthritis and the disability associated with arthritis.

To Learn and Do More

You can get involved in NAAP activities in many ways. First, read the full plan

If you’d like to get involved in national advocacy efforts on behalf of people with arthritis, visit our Advocacy Center or check with your local chapter about state and local activities.
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