World Arthritis Day

by Cooper B. Wilhelm

Dancers in Cyprus invited audience members to boogey down. Maasranga, a Bangladeshi TV channel, ran a “Mass Awareness Programme.” A health educator and orthopedic surgeon spoke on the radio in Suriname. People in San Jose, California, were offered free chair massages. In many ways, in many places, people around the globe celebrated the 16th annual World Arthritis Day.

Established by Arthritis and Rheumatism International in 1996, World Arthritis Day officially comes each year on October 12, but people around the world host celebrations and programs in observance of World Arthritis Day during much of the month.

The theme of this year’s World Arthritis Day was “Let’s Move Together,” and many of the events and programs focused on the benefits of physical activity for people with arthritis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Physical activity can reduce pain and improve function, mobility, mood, and quality of life for most adults with many types of arthritis including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and lupus. Physical activity can also help people with arthritis manage other chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.” The CDC has an online factsheet about the benefits of physical activity for people with arthritis, as well as a more detailed overview of how people with arthritis can stay active and why they should.

Over 63,000 people in 80 countries also sent in photos of themselves waving to the official World Arthritis Day Web site to show their support for people with rheumatic and other musculoskeletal diseases. You can see the "Waving for World Arthritis Day" gallery of photos here.

In addition to its yearly Jingle Bell Run/Walk fund-raiser, the Arthritis Foundation in the United States also asked people to write First Lady Michelle Obama thanking her for her “Let’s Move” anti-obesity campaign and asking her “to talk about the benefits of movement and weight management for the prevention and treatment of arthritis.” The pre-written letter or e-mail is still available here (or you can compose your own).

Arthritis affects people all over the world. Studies on the incidence of arthritis in different regions can be hard to come by, but the prevalence of arthritis in different places seems to vary widely. A Canadian meta-study, for example, found studies reporting the rates of “arthritis and rheumatism” as being about 15% in Pakistan, about 24% in Mexico City, and above 50% in Havana, Cuba. There are also variations in the rates of particular kinds of arthritis. Gout, for example, affects about twice as many people in Canada (about 3%) as in the United Kingdom or Germany (about 1.3%). Gout rates were even lower among people in Java (about 0.8%) and the Czech Republic (about 0.3%). However, gout affects almost 12% of Ho-Ping County aborigines in Taiwan.

About 21% of adults in the United States have some form of arthritis, but the rates of people affected by arthritis differ across the country. According to statistics from the CDC, most of the states with the highest rates of arthritis are in the eastern half of the country, with the highest prevalence of arthritis occurring in West Virginia (about 37%) and the lowest occurring in Hawaii (just shy of 18%). The CDC also predicts arthritis rates will increase in every state from 2005 to 2030, with many states seeing an increase of 100% or more.

The World Arthritis Day Web site is already counting down to next year’s World Arthritis Day, but don’t wait until then to take action or show your support. Every day is another chance to get more active and to better manage your arthritis.

Last Reviewed on November 29, 2012

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Cooper B. Wilhelm is an Editorial Assistant at Arthritis Self-Management.

Statements and opinions expressed on this Web site are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the publishers or advertisers. The information provided on this Web site should not be construed as medical instruction. Consult appropriate health-care professionals before taking action based on this information.

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