UNC Arthritis Programs Aligned with Step It Up! Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities

UNC’s Thurston Arthritis Research Center and the Osteoarthritis Action Alliance explore and promote the benefits of walking and being active for people with arthritis, our colleagues, and the general public and encourage the UNC community to take action in response to the Sept. 9 release of Step It Up! Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities.

UNC’s Thurston Arthritis Research Center (TARC), directed by Joanne M. Jordan, MD, and the Osteoarthritis Action Alliance (OAAA), directed by Leigh F. Callahan, MD, have long been champions of physical activity and walking, specifically, for our patients with arthritis, their family and friends, our colleagues, the UNC community and the public. With last week’s release of Step It Up! Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities, we are well positioned to promote this initiative among the UNC community to encourage each other and our patients to take action.

With physical inactivity and risk of chronic disease on the rise, the Surgeon General’s Call to Action aims to increase walking across the nation by calling for access to safe and convenient places to walk and wheelchair roll for people of all ages. Through clinical practice, research and public health messaging supported variously by the UNC School of Medicine, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), NIH, the Arthritis Foundation (AF) and others, TARC and the OAAA have pursued many efforts to explore and promote the benefits of walking and being active for arthritis.

The Johnston County Osteoarthritis (OA) Project, a longitudinal study in its 25th year and led by Dr. Jordan, has involved numerous ancillary studies to implement and test the effects of walking and active living on OA disease progression and quality of life.

Dr. Callahan has conducted studies in communities across North Carolina to validate the AF’s Walk With Ease program for arthritis populations and its adaptation for Hispanic populations, Camine Con Gusto. Thanks to her work, TARC is credited on the AF’s Walk With Ease free mobile app!

The OAAA is a coalition of over 60 organizations mobilized to reduce the national toll of OA through advances in education, awareness and resources, with physical activity is among its primary strategies. Specific to the Surgeon General’s Call to Action, the OAAA and collaborators from Boston University’s Center for Enhancing Activity and Participation Among Persons with Arthritis are developing a walkability assessment tool to support walking and physical activity behaviors among people with arthritis.   

The OAAA maintains free online resources to promote positive lifestyle and activity behaviors; educational webinars on exercise as medicine and mall walking (coming up Oct. 21); and an online Implementation Guide to increase physical activity for adults with arthritis. From this guide, the OAAA awarded small grants to communities around the country to provide educational resources, access to evidence-based physical activity programs, like AF’s Walk With Ease, and support for walkability audits for their community members with OA.

Not only do we talk the talk, we also walk the walk. Throughout the year, colleagues, family and friends of TARC and the OAAA participate in individual and group walking events to raise awareness for arthritis, including the AF’s annual Walk to Cure Arthritis and Jingle Bell walk/runs. Earlier this year, TARC and OAAA teams contributed 436,303 steps to UNC Wellness Center’s entry into the Medical Fitness Association’s Annual Walking Challenge.

With so many great opportunities around campus and surrounding neighborhoods and cities, TARC and the OAAA encourage everyone in the UNC community to walk and support Step It Up!

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