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New funding secured for arthritis treatment programme at Ara

There are over 140 different types of arthritis, which can have significant impact on quality of life. However, participants of the Mobility Action Programme (MAP), run through Ara Institute of Canterbury’s specialist sports facility The Zone, have found that exercise, education and a little help from their friends, can make a world of difference.

In 2016, Ara helped to establish the MAP, initially a three-year pilot programme in partnership with Sport Canterbury and Canterbury District Health Board’s (CDHB) Canterbury Initiative, to cater for people with osteoarthritis who had been declined for surgery.

Due to a proven reduction in the severity of participant’s pain, improved mobility, and the positive effects of the supportive group environment, the programme recently secured funding for a further year.

“Participants have told us that they love it!” James Jowsey, Manager of Midwifery and Allied Health at Ara says. “It’s not so much the exercise but actually the social aspect…it acts as a community of support.”

Jowsey firmly believes that osteoarthritis sufferers who keep active generally experience a better overall quality of life. “Activity and weight bearing is good for joints because it produces a fluid which lubricates the joints and enables them to move better.”

Sport Canterbury’s role in the programme has involved applying the skills of their Physical Activity Team to help motivate and support patients with osteoarthritis in either their hip or knee. Anna Wilson, Team Leader says, “Due to our delivery of the Green Prescription, a service funded by the CDHB and Pegasus Health to help people improve their health and wellness through increased physical activity, Sport Canterbury saw the MAP programme as a great fit with the organisation’s overall vision of getting more people, more active, more often.”



When participants join the programme they complete a functional movement test, and fill in a questionnaire about their health and wellbeing, goals and ability to manage their condition. Participants have ranged in age from 28 to 82 years old.

Kim Johnston, Manager of the Zone at Ara says, “The participants will do an eight-week programme with us where they come in for two hours each week, which is split between education sessions and physical activity.”

Students of the Bachelor of Applied Science at Ara assist with the programme as part of the practical component of their degree, which covers three strands: sport science, human nutrition or physical activity and health promotion.

“The students are great! They help assist participants in the circuit room, and in the gym, and they get to sit in on education sessions as well,” Johnston says.

The exercise component of the MAP involves light resistance work, and movements to encourage mobility and flexibility, such as step-ups, the cycle ergometer, dumbbell exercises, and use of resistance bands.

Bruce Penny, facilitator for the Canterbury Initiative from 2007-2017, says, “We believed the programme would help people manage their current condition. But also knowing that osteoarthritis conditions deteriorate, we were looking to help pre-habilitate them for surgery so they would have a better experience and hopefully a better outcome.”

Peter Sumpter, a participant from 2018 said, “For a number of years I have been suffering from osteoarthritis, but am not eligible for surgery…I am now much better informed and am confident that the physical exercise I do can does no harm and can only help.”

The MAP education sessions cover nutrition, pain science, mind, body and sleep, complementary therapies such as acupuncture, and alternative medicines. A pharmacist also comes in to talk about traditional pain medications.

Placements for the programme are limited to a maximum of 40 participants per group and initiated by general practitioner referral. The start date for the new programme is still to be confirmed.


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