The Arthritis Foundation: Changing the Future of Arthritis

  • Arthritis is Unacceptable.


    That's quite a statement, isn't it? It's the philosophy guiding The Arthritis Foundation's efforts during National Arthritis Awareness Month. It's why the motto for 2011 campaign is Take Action!


    Consider the numbers:


    Arthritis costs the economy $128 billion annually,

    Almost 300,000 children live with juvenile arthritis

    By 2030, 67 million Americans are projected to have arthritis


    The consequences of not taking action are devastating. Arthritis takes a deep toll on the people who live with it - physically, emotionally and financially. Arthritis has a significant impact on the economy and affect the health of our nation's, as well. This is why arthritis is unacceptable. It's why The Arthritis Foundation works in advocacy and fundraising to support research and development of medications that can control and some day cure arthritis. Until that day happens, the Foundation also supports those of us who live with arthritis with services and programs.

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    I recently spoke to Dr. Patience White, VP of Public Health with The Arthritis Foundation. Have you wanted to find an exercise in support program for people living with arthritis? Wondered how you could get involved in advocacy? Then read on!


    Goals & Accomplishments

    The Arthritis Foundation is a federated foundation composed of a national office and 10 regional offices. They work closely together to further the Foundations mission of preventing, controlling and curing arthritis.


    When I asked what their greatest accomplishments were, Dr. White had several candidates. The Arthritis Foundation was instrumental in developing the first national Arthritis Action Plan and helped lobby for an Arthritis Branch in the National Institutes of Health. As well, they have developed an Osteoarthritis Public Health Agenda and organize an annual national conference for juvenile arthritis, this year held in Washington July 8-10, 2011. They're also the #1 not-for-profit funder of arthritis research, having contributed over $400 million for this important work.


    What They Do

    In addition to developing policy and funding research, The Arthritis Foundation also provides services and programs for people living with different types of arthritis. Dr. White emphasized that the Foundation's programs are evidence-based, which means they are tested for efficacy the same way medications are tested. These studies have proven the programs help people feel better and have better function even a year after taking the classes! These programs include:


    • The Exercise Program is developed specifically for people living with arthritis and uses gentle exercise to increase flexibility and function
    • The  Aquatic Program. Water-based exercise can be very beneficial for people living with arthritis. The Aquatic Program is developed in cooperation with the YMCA
    • Tai Chi can help improve quality of life, balance and combat stress
    • The Self-Help Program is taught by certified leaders, many of whom have arthritis themselves. It helps the participants navigate the healthcare system and handle day-to-day challenges
    • Walking can be a terrific way of getting gentle exercise and the Walk with Ease Program can help you make the first steps towards making walking a  habit


  • Several of these programs reflect the fact that exercise can help you control pain. Learning types of exercise that protect your joints can help you succeed in including exercise in your collection of coping mechanisms. As well, exercise can also help you lose weight - even a modest weight loss can help control your pain. Dr. White reminded me of an astonishing fact: did you know that losing just 1 pound takes 4lbs of stress off your knees?


    To access these programs, contact your regional office for more information. If you're interested in becoming an instructor in one of these programs, The Arthritis Foundation offers training and certification.

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    What You Can Do

    Many of us want to get involved in advocating for research money, policy initiatives and government priorities. The Arthritis Foundation offers two ways of helping you get involved, depending on how much time you have to give:


    • Become an Advocate. Advocates can get involved in raising awareness about arthritis, including visiting their state representative to discuss the issue or engaging in e-advocacy, receiving Action Alerts from the Foundation guiding them to write letters or emails to elected officials. You can sign up to be an Advocate on the Foundation's website and check out their toolkit.
    • Become an Ambassador. Ambassadors are more involved than Advocates and work as liaison between The Arthritis Foundation and elected officials through written correspondence, attending town hall meeting, etc.



    We who live with RA benefit directly from The Arthritis Foundation's work. As mentioned above, the Foundation has contributed over $400 million to research. Dr. White mentioned that the Foundation funded the basic research for Enbrel, the first of the biologic drugs that have made such a huge difference in the prognosis of RA and the lives of people living with the disease. Monies raised also fund Young Investigators, encouraging them to develop an interest in arthritis research and helping them train with more experience investigators.


    Dr. White also shared the different fundraising events held by The Arthritis Foundation. They include dinner and galas, the Jingle Bell Run/Walk and The Arthritis Walk. Later this month, Sara Nash and Leslie Rott will both report on their participation in the Arthritis Walk. If you want to join them in your own community for this or other types of fundraising, check out the Foundation page on the Arthritis Walk and contact your regional chapter for more information about starting or becoming a member of a team.


    I'd like to thank Dr. White for a very informative and inspiring interview. I'm itching to get involved!



    Dr. Patience White is the vice president of public health for the Arthritis Foundation.  In addition to her work at the national office of the Arthritis Foundation, she also is a professor of medicine and pediatrics at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. 


    Lene is the author of the award-winning blog The Seated View.


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Published On: May 04, 2011