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FOR RELEASE: July 5, 2004
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Arthritis - An Increasing Public Health Problem

Forty-nine million American adults reported doctor-diagnosed arthritis and another 21 million stated they had chronic joint symptoms in 2001, according to the latest statistics reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BFRSS).

In the first state-specific estimates of doctor-diagnosed arthritis, the CDC says that one in four adults in 30 states was diagnosed with arthritis and other rheumatic conditions. In Oklahoma, with a population of more than three million, the implications are sobering. There are 726,000 Oklahoma adults who report that they have arthritis or other rheumatic conditions while 444,000 report they have possible arthritis (BRFSS, 2002). Officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) say that the problem is likely to grow as Oklahoma’s population ages.

CDC estimates the economic and societal burden of arthritis nationally as one percent of the U.S. gross domestic product, or $86.2 billion. Of that amount, $51.1 billion are in medical care expenditures and $35.1 billion are in lost earnings. The economic burden in Oklahoma is $1.2 billion.

“Medical costs associated with arthritis and other rheumatic conditions are predicted to rise as the population ages and because new medical interventions are more costly,” said Marisa New, coordinator for the OSDH Arthritis Prevention and Education Program. “It is our hope that costs will be reduced and quality of life increased through more widespread use of public health programs to increase physical activity, maintain healthy weight, and expand self-help options to manage pain and disability.”

Some CDC findings about the burden of arthritis in the United States include the following:

  • Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the United States.
  • Arthritis limits everyday activities for eight million Americans.
  • Arthritis comprises more than 100 different disease and conditions, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and gout.
  • The number of people age 65 and older who have arthritis or chronic joint symptoms is projected to nearly double from 21.4 million in 2001 to 41.4 million in 2030.
  • Older adults 65 years of age or older have the highest risk of arthritis (58.8 percent).
  • Two-thirds of all people with arthritis are younger than age 65.
  • Arthritis was noticeably higher for women (37.3 percent) than for men (28.4 percent).

“Research shows that physical activity decreases joint pain, improves function and delays disability. In addition, avoiding joint injuries and increasing physical activity will help reduce the risk of developing arthritis and delays disease progression,” New said.

The Oklahoma Arthritis Network promotes the following Arthritis Foundation programs:

  • The Arthritis Self Help Course - a program to help people with arthritis better manage their condition.
  • People with Arthritis Can Exercise (PACE) - a program that teaches people with arthritis how to safely increase their level of physical activity.

For more information and/or to receive a copy of the soon-to-be-released 2004 Arthritis Data Report, “The Painful Truth,” contact the OSDH Arthritis Prevention and Education Program at 405/271-9444, ext. 56520, or visit these Web sites: www.health.state.ok.us/program/apep/ and www.arthritis.org .

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