Often dismissed as an old person’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis can also affect the young and middle aged. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the most serious form of arthritis. It is not a rare disease, affecting around half a million Australians and of these cases almost 60% are women.
During Arthritis Awareness Week, Arthritis Australia and the Australian Rheumatology Association will launch a campaign to give a voice to the almost 300,000 Australian women with rheumatoid arthritis. The campaign seeks to educate all Australians on the prevalence of the condition, particularly in young and middle aged women and the significant impact it has on their lives.
To coincide with the launch of the campaign this week at Parliament House in Canberra, a new book titled Women’s Insights into Rheumatoid Arthritis will be distributed to rheumatologists and all public/municipal libraries across Australia.
Women’s Insights into Rheumatoid Arthritis features the stories of 12 inspiring Australian women with this condition — as shared with their local female Federal MP.
Ita Buttrose, Vice President Emeritus of Arthritis Australia, says that creating the book was a powerful, emotional experience for all involved.
“It has been difficult for our RA champions – for that’s what they are – to think back over the progression of their disease from when they were first diagnosed, through the years of endless pain and the many ways in which RA has changed their lives,” Ms Buttrose said. “I defy anyone not to be moved by their courage and their incredible optimism.”
The 12 Australian women featured in the Women’s Insights into Rheumatoid Arthritis book are:
- Renee Lang, aged 21, Adelaide, SA as told to the Minister for Early Childhood Education, Childcare and Youth and Minister for Sport, The Hon Kate Ellis MP, Member for Adelaide, SA.
- Rebecca Henderson, aged 30, Griffith, NSW as told to the Nationals Chief Whip, Kay Hull MP, Member for Riverina, NSW.
- Hayley Foyster, aged 33, Kingscliff, Queensland as told to the Minister for Ageing, The Hon Justine Elliot MP, Member for Richmond, NSW.
- Suzie May, aged 35, Perth, WA as told to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, The Hon Julie Bishop MP, Member for Curtin, WA.
- Amanda Glynn, aged 39, Perth, WA as told to the Australian Greens Whip, Senator Rachel Siewert, Senator for WA.
- Despina Gonis, aged 48, Adelaide, SA as told to the Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator the Hon Penny Wong, Senator for SA.
- Christine O’Brien, aged 49, Melbourne, Victoria as told to the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, The Hon Jenny Macklin MP, Member for Heidelberg, Victoria.
- Sabine Gunton, aged 54, Sydney, NSW as told to the Shadow Minister for Seniors, The Hon Bronwyn Bishop MP, Member for Mackellar, NSW.
- Ann Goody, aged 56, Cooktown, Queensland as told to Senator Sue Boyce, Senator for Queensland.
- Elleke Penny (pictured with Julia Gillard), aged 59, Melbourne, Victoria as told to the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Minister for Education and Minister for Social Inclusion, The Hon Julia Gillard MP, Member for Lalor, Victoria.
- Judith Nguyen, aged 63, Sydney, NSW as told to the Minister for Housing and Minister for the Status of Women, The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP, Member for Sydney, NSW.
- Barbara Dutton, aged 74, Burnie, Tasmania as told to Senator Carol Brown, Senator for Tasmania.
It is hoped the book will inspire other women affected by rheumatoid arthritis to get a proper diagnosis sooner rather than later.
“We know irreversible joint damage occurs in the first two years of RA and that earlier and more aggressive therapy can prevent or slow down its devastating effects,” said Dr Mona Marabani, President of Arthritis Australia.
“But still many people don’t understand the urgency of this situation, believing arthritis is all one disease, shrugging it off as an old people’s problem, and thinking nothing can be done. Women’s Insights sets out to change these misconceptions. RA is a serious condition. It can shorten life. It attacks people in their prime – often from 25 to 54 years of age – and affects more women than men.”
Arthritis Australia is also hoping the book will help healthcare professionals and policy makers, to realise that more needs to be done to provide better care and access to services and treatment for RA.
CEO of Arthritis Australia, Ainslie Cahill says that rheumatoid arthritis has a huge impact on the individual person both socially and financially. Many people miss out on the available services and treatments because they simply cannot afford them.
“Some of the women who have told their stories have not had a pain-free day since being diagnosed. Women’s Insights is an attempt to raise the voice of RA and make it heard,” said Ms Cahill.
“Through the untold stories of 12 gutsy women, we’re hoping to increase general understanding of the disease in the belief that better knowledge will help reduce the effects of RA in Australia and ultimately limit the impact on future generations.”
Women’s Insights into Rheumatoid Arthritis is a limited edition book produced to boost support from the community, healthcare professionals and government for greater understanding and better management of rheumatoid arthritis. It has been supported by healthcare company Abbott with an unrestricted grant.
Source: Arthritis Australia