Public health

National action plan for arthritis launched

The newly-launched National Strategic Action Plan for Arthritis has called on the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) to increase research investment in arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions commensurate with the burden of disease in the community.

Referencing other dedicated MRFF funding such as the Boosting Dementia Research Initiative or the Million Minds Mission in mental health, the Action Plan from Arthritis Australia says building research capacity and the evidence base has the potential to improve clinical outcomes for patients.

The Action Plan also calls for funding to help expand existing registries, databases and initiatives such as the Australian Rheumatology Association Database (ARAD), disease specific registries, the OPAL Rheumatology databases and the Australian Arthritis and Autoimmune Biobank Collaborative.

As highlighted in the limbic last year, when the Action Plan was still in draft form, there is also a focus on building the rheumatology workforce and innovative care delivery models.

This includes a call for paediatric rheumatology training, rheumatology nurse practitioners to triage and manage tasks within their scope of practice, advanced practice physiotherapy clinics to manage patients on wait lists, and early inflammatory arthritis clinics.

Medical Director of Arthritis Australia, Professor Susanna Proudman, said in a statement that prompt and appropriate treatment could help achieve remission in some forms of arthritis, and slow or even halt disease progression.

“Unfortunately, it can take some people up to a year to see a specialist through the public system. Ideally, people with certain types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis or juvenile arthritis, should see a specialist within 12 weeks of the onset of symptoms – a year is far too long to wait, and the disease can progress significantly in that time.”

“This Action Plan shows how Australia can develop better care and support services, resulting in better health outcomes for Australians with arthritis. Ambitious and forward-looking investment in research from the Medical Research Future Fund is also critical to help find better ways to treat and, ultimately to cure, arthritis in its many forms,” she said.

CEO of Arthritis Australia, Andrew Mills, said arthritis educators were also a vital component of the Action Plan.

“In the current system, a person may get half an hour with a specialist to talk about their diagnosis, and then they’re often left to their own devices. An Arthritis Educator could step in at this point and provide more detailed information about the patient’s condition, information about medications and side effects, emotional support, and also help them to navigate their way through the various medical and allied health services available.”

Update: Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has announced $4 million towards the National Strategic Action Plan for Arthritis.

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