(excerpts from remarks made by Dr. John H. Klippel, M.D., President and CEO, Arthritis Foundation at the April 30, 2009 Congressional Briefing)

 Arthritis is so much more than aches and pains – this severely disabling disease impacts millions in a very real and personal way.  Arthritis often robs people of the ability to live independently.  In fact, people who are disabled from arthritis often report needing help getting around inside the home, just getting out of bed or a chair, and bathing, dressing, and eating. 

 At today’s briefing, the CDC will release new data to the public, to be published in the Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report, on how disabling arthritis really is and on the disproportionate impact on women. 

 All of us, Congress, CDC, NIH, the private sector, industry, and health care providers must all tackle this disease with the best in science, prevention and health care delivery with a coordinated, informed approach.

Some Key Points About Arthritis and Physical Activity

  •  Arthritis affects 46 million or one in every five Americans. 
  • Arthritis is not just an old person’s disease, in fact, nearly 2/3 of people with arthritis are under the age of 65. 
  • All of us with mothers, wives, sisters and daughters need to be mindful that arthritis impacts women more than men.  Arthritis related disability is more prevalent among women than men at all ages: one in four women (24.4%) report having a disability compared with one in five men (19.1%).  In absolute numbers, since 1999, there has been a 22 percent increase in the number of women who attribute their disability to arthritis (6.4 million).
  • Physical activity is vitally important to manage arthritis and other chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.  Unless we get a better handle on managing arthritis and communicating to people about the safe ways to exercise with arthritis the approximately 50% of people with heart disease and diabetes who also have arthritis will continue to ignore the public health approach to physical activity. 
  • Evidence-based, self-management and physical activity programs, like those offered by the Arthritis Foundation, and supported by the CDC, can help those affected by arthritis exercise safely. The key is to expand these programs, and other evidence based strategies, into more communities across the nation.  

Facts to Consider: For funding arthritis prevention, other arthritis legislation and health care reform

  • Arthritis currently disables 19 million Americans, taking a toll on the U.S. economy. It accounts for $128 billion annually in direct medical and indirect  costs – this is equal to 1.2% of the total US Gross Domestic Product!
  • Nearly 1/3 of all US workers who have doctor diagnosed arthritis report work limitations, that is they change or curtail their work, and often end up leaving the workforce earlier than planned.   
  • With the aging of the Baby Boomer population, the prevalence of arthritis is expected to rise by 40 percent by the year 2030, impacting 67 million Americans.  This is astounding -  this promises to be a public health crisis of epidemic proportions unless Congress and the private sector get a better handle on this disease.
  • Hip, knee and total joint replacements, the vast majority due to arthritis, are some of the fastest growing procedures in the Medicare and private payer system.  In 2004, there were 632,000 total joint replacements performed, the vast majority due to arthritis.  These procedures cost $22.6 billion dollars alone. 
  • The economic impact is staggering! $128 billion in adverse economic impacts Results in 992,000 hospitalizations and 44 million outpatient visits.
  • If the pain and suffering of arthritis is not enough for Congress to act then the economics of this disease should be!
  • The CDC expects the aging “Baby Boomers” will likely cause large increases in the number of adults with disability over the next 20 years, suggesting a critical need to expand the reach of effective strategies aimed at disability prevention and management.

Three Things Congress Can do About the Burgeoning Problem of Arthritis:

  • Expand the CDC Arthritis Prevention Program – Currently, the CDC Arthritis Program works with state health departments across the nation to increase public awareness and participation in evidence based programs and monitor the burden of the disease.  We need to provide these programs and services to more people just like Jackie and Veronica with arthritis. These CDC funded state arthritis prevention programs are currently in 12 states.  However, the need is great in all 50 states – there are millions of people with arthritis in every state that need our collective help.
  •  Arthritis Prevention needs to be a priority in health care reform dialogue. Public health communication and prevention messages and programs need to incorporate arthritis specific language in order to reach people the millions who have arthritis and those who have arthritis along with other chronic diseases.  Managing and controlling chronic diseases, such as arthritis, need to be a cornerstone of any health care reform legislation being considered by Congress.
  • Congress should pass the Arthritis Prevention, Control and Cure Act (H.R. 1210) which proposes to strengthen arthritis research and public health initiatives.  Last year, this historic legislation passed the US House of Representatives but did not get through the Senate.  This year we look forward to working with Congress to pass both Chambers of Congress.  We urge your support of this legislation.
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