Raising Our Voices to Fuel Arthritis Research

A cornerstone of the Arthritis Foundation’s advocacy efforts is asking Congress to invest more in arthritis research. The Arthritis Foundation advocates for continued investment in the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) to enable research into better treatments and the search for arthritis cures. Of the $550 million NIAMS budget, $246 million was allocated for arthritis research in 2009 and $252 million in 2010.

The Arthritis Foundation has played an instrumental role in supporting the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA), which augmented the amount of money the National Institutes of Health (NIH) could invest in research by an additional $10 billion. This meant an additional $6 million was directed toward arthritis research in 2009, and another $35 million in 2010.

The Arthritis Foundation also advocates for the congressionally directed research program at the Department of Defense (DOD). Because of the high incidence of osteoarthritis among military veterans, the DOD has allocated approximately $3.5 million for osteoarthritis research.

“Advocacy is critical to funding research,” says Arthritis Foundation Vice President for Advocacy Amy Melnick. “There are so many different health issues competing for the same dollars. Our voice must be heard.” That voice is expressed through a combination of concentrated education and communications in Washington, D.C., combined with local efforts in the home states of each member of Congress.

Besides advocating for research funding, Melnick adds that the Arthritis Foundation’s efforts are also important to drive research policy. “We are the only nonprofit organization specifically dedicated to arthritis research, advocacy and education support. So we are able to convene the best and the brightest from every organization to determine and pursue the best directions for research.”

“The statistics make the message abundantly clear,” Melnick points out. “Fifty million people in this country have arthritis. By the year 2030, fully one-fourth of the United States population will have this disease. And arthritis remains the number one cause of disability in America. This is a critical public health issue – and given the impact that disability has on businesses, it is an economic issue as well. We cannot afford for it not to be a priority – and we must continually strengthen our voice. As more people join our advocacy efforts, the stronger our voice will be. And the stronger our voice is, the more likely the realities of arthritis are to be heard, understood and acted upon.”

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