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NZ's Forgotten Disease

Arthritis, New Zealand's "forgotten disease," which affects 1 in 4 New Zealanders and is a major cause of disability and chronic pain, is the focus of a free public health seminar in Auckland today.

Arthritis has a significant economic impact and affects an estimated 10% of the workforce. Women are significantly over-represented and around 60% of all people with arthritis are of working age.

The New Zealand Rheumatology Association (NZRA) is increasingly frustrated at the low priority given to arthritis in New Zealand, dubbing it "the forgotten disease." In particular, the NZRA is frustrated that new medicines, which would benefit patients who are not responding to other treatments by preventing their joints from further erosion, reducing their pain and generally improving mobility and wellbeing, are not Government funded.

There is considerable evidence that rheumatologists treat arthritis more cost-effectively than other doctors. New Zealand currently has around half the required number of rheumatologists by international recommendations.

Poorly treated arthritis results in permanent disability, with enormous social and economic costs. Funding of services and medications that can prevent disability is likely to pay for itself many times over in the long term.

Commissioned by the Decade of Bone & Joint 2000-2010, the seminar will have information on the latest options and developments from rheumatologist, Peter Gow and other health professionals, such as orthopaedic surgeon, Geoff Lamb, nurse specialist, Hazra Sahid, physiotherapist, Melissa North and occupational therapist, Julie Collis. Julia Gallagher from Osteoporosis NZ and rheumatoid arthritis patient, Gail Plamus, will also be speaking.

The seminar is at 2.00pm today at the Ellerslie Convention Centre.

Sent by Sarah Smith on 09 445 3951

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