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Osteoarthritis No Knees-Up For Many Kiwis

Osteoarthritis no knees-up for many NZers – Otago research

Knee osteoarthritis (OA) causes adult New Zealanders to lose a total of 467,240 quality-adjusted years of life (QALY) across their lifetimes, new University of Otago research shows. One QALY equates to one year in perfect health.

Knee OA is a debilitating, painful disease that affects many New Zealanders, and now new Otago research has used updated data and models to gain a clearer picture of this chronic condition’s considerable impact on health-related QALY losses.

The study, published in the international journal PLOS ONE, is the first to specifically look at the burden of this form of arthritis in New Zealand. It estimates that, across the adult population, on average, each person living with knee OA loses 3.44 years of healthy life (QALY), compared with people without knee OA.

Associate Professor Haxby Abbott, who led the research, says the proportion of QALYs lost, out of the total quality-adjusted life expectancy for those with knee osteoarthritis, is similar across all male, female, Māori and non-Māori subgroups, ranging from 20 to 23 per cent.

“Even though it is one of the most common causes of health losses over people’s lifetimes, this particular form of arthritis is an often overlooked quality of life issue for many New Zealanders, – not only can it be severely painful, but it can greatly restrict mobility.

“We could potentially make large health gains from public health and policy measures aimed at decreasing the incidence, progression, pain, and disability of osteoarthritis.

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“Such measures could include models of care that remove system- and funding- barriers to the access and timely delivery of recommended best practice interventions,” Associate Professor Abbott says.

The computer simulation model used to calculate the health losses from knee OA in this study can also be used to assess the impact of improvements in OA care. “For instance, our earlier research has shown that taking part in properly designed exercise programmes can not only reduce patients’ pain but also increase their physical function and overall quality of life”, he says.

The research is part of a wider Health Research Council of New Zealand-funded study into osteoarthritis in New Zealand.


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