Media contact: Tom Hughes, 984-974-1151, Tom.Hughes@unchealth.unc.edu
Monday, March 2, 2015
The Osteoarthritis Action Alliance (OAAA), a broad coalition of public health leaders and stakeholders committed to elevating osteoarthritis as a national health priority, is now based at the Thurston Arthritis Research Center in the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.
“With UNC’s Thurston Arthritis Research Center at the forefront of community-based research and public health efforts that range from understanding the disease process around OA, strategies for prevention and early intervention, and looking at the economic impact of OA, we are uniquely positioned to manage the OAAA. We are very excited to be leading this consortium,” said Leigh F. Callahan, PhD, the Mary Link Briggs Distinguished Professor of Medicine at the UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center and Director of the OAAA.
The OAAA already includes over 30 member organizations but plans to expand its membership extensively in early 2015 to accomplish its broad mission and goals of impacting awareness, education and management of OA among policymakers at all levels, healthcare providers and systems, communities and individuals. In its effort to address the individual and national toll of OA, the OAAA promotes self-management and lifestyle strategies such as weight management, joint injury prevention, and physical activity, which are known to be as effective as current drug therapies for treating joint pain and slowing the progression of OA.
One of the first major projects the OAAA is launching from UNC is its Implementation Guide for Environmental and Policy Strategies to Increase Physical Activity Among Adults with Arthritis. The Guide is a collection of online resources aimed at increasing physical activity around six key sectors, including business, healthcare, parks and recreation, mass media, communities, and transportation and land use. To encourage utilization of the Implementation Guide, the OAAA will also launch a mini-grant program in early 2015 to fund several small community-based projects that will encourage physical activity in one or more sector(s) of their choosing.
“As a consortium, the OAAA has the potential to stimulate change among policymakers or healthcare systems or communities in larger ways than would be feasible for a single organization. For example, through the Implementation Guide, we can encourage communities to improve walkability so that people with arthritis can get out and move, knowing that there are plenty of park benches so they can rest or that have enough time to cross the street at timed crosswalks. You don’t think about this until you have joint pain and can no longer move as easily or quickly. We can change this,” said Kirsten R. Ambrose, MS, CCRC, program manager of the OAAA.
In addition to the Implementation Guide, the OAAA has also developed educational brochures in English and Spanish on relevant issues such as anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury prevention and weight management and joint pain. A monthly Lunch and Learn series invites content experts to give free webinars to OAAA members and the public, which are then posted on the OAAA website and YouTube channel for viewing. With a new website and social media presence, the OAAA hopes to expand its reach and message quickly and broadly.
“As health care professionals, we should direct our efforts to treating OA more as the chronic disease it really is, rather than intervening once patients have significant pain or are disabled. Lifestyle changes that reduce excess weight and support physical activity are beneficial not only for the management of OA, but also can help reduce risks for diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. The OA Action Alliance recognizes the importance of including OA in this conversation,” says Joanne M. Jordan, MD, MPH, the Joseph P. Archie, Jr. Eminent Professor of Medicine, Chief of the Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology and Director of the Thurston Arthritis Research Center.