Since 1967, Arthritis NSW has helped to improve the lives of those suffering from arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions, including those newly diagnosed and long-term sufferers.
Formerly known as the Arthritis Foundation of NSW, the founder, the late Bruce Williams, hoped to provide people living with these conditions fellowship, social support and assistance with daily living, so that they may live with dignity and purpose.
Because of his incredible vision, Arthritis NSW has gone on to become a peak body for arthritis support in the state. The organisation is a trusted source when it comes to the latest news and evidence-based information on the disease and its treatment, delivering education programs across a number of platforms including webinars, workshops and community awareness sessions.
Arthritis NSW has an esteemed board of professionals led by President Nigel Corne and vice President Murray Smith with a dedicated team of management and staff.
For those living with arthritis, it can have an all-consuming effect, physically, emotionally and mentally. Some of the most common symptoms include pain, stiffness, swelling of or reduced movement of joints, nausea, redness and warmth in joints, tiredness and weight loss. Osteoporosis, on the other hand, can lead to a higher risk of fractures as the bones become brittle and fragile. Performing everyday tasks can become unbearable, even impossible. It can also result in other negative health impacts such as obesity and diabetes. Certain types of arthritis can even affect the heart, eyes, kidneys, lungs and skin.
Today, 3.85 million Australians ‒ at least one in five in New South Wales alone ‒ live with arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions, with this figure estimated to rise to 7 million by 2050.
There are more than 100 different types of arthritis. Among the most common forms include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout. Although there are certain treatments available that can help alleviate the pain, there is currently no cure and if left untreated can worsen over time. Arthritis is also responsible for at least 25% of workplace absenteeism and is the second most common cause of retirement. It also takes a significant toll on the economy, costing $23.9 billion each year in medical care and indirect costs, including loss of earnings and lost productivity.
As a charitable and membership-based organisation, Arthritis NSW aims to support the individual to live well with arthritis, osteoporosis and other such conditions through:
- Self-Management Strategies
- Information and support
- Research towards clinical, social and quality improvements.
The organisation was founded upon core values of compassion, integrity, transparency, providing accessibility to health services for people of all ages, backgrounds and lifestyles, and a commitment to improving the quality of life of those living with arthritis and other related conditions.
Arthritis NSW aims to achieve this by empowering the individual, focusing on self-management through diet and nutrition, lifestyle and gentle exercise to help maintain joint functionality and reduce overall pain. With the help of their health services team, they have developed programs that are carefully tailored to meet the needs of those affected by arthritis, osteoporosis and other such conditions, including warm water exercise classes and a strength and balance program, helping to improve blood pressure and cholesterol, maintain a healthy weight and raise energy levels.
Education is a major cornerstone of Arthritis NSW. Through qualified health experts, the organisation provides those living with arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions with information and advice on:
- Medical management
- Complementary treatments and therapies
- Healthy eating
- How to deal with pain
- How to seek help and support
- What to do when caring for a loved one
- Engaging in physical activity
- Mental and emotional wellbeing.
Arthritis NSW always strives to give back to the community. The organisation hosts events such as the Patch of Blue Golf Day to help raise awareness of arthritis and other related conditions. Four times a year, Arthritis NSW also offer four camps for children affected by Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis: Camp Twinkletoes (for children under 8 years old and their families) and Camp Footloose (for children and young people aged 9 to 18 years).
Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA) affects one in 1,000 children and is often misunderstood by the wider population. People often think of arthritis as an old person's condition, yet it affects the lives of an estimated 3,000 children in NSW alone. These children often feel marginalised and concerned that they are 'letting the team down' when it comes to physical activities. Camp Footloose is a parent-free experience that gives children aged nine to 18 the chance to play and challenge each other on a level playing field, without fear of judgement."
Camp Footloose has become the event of the year for its young campers says Keelie Sammons, 10, who was diagnosed with JIA at 21 months old after her parents noticed that she was limping and had a swollen knee, which spread to her hand and wrist: "For me, the camp is a chance to be myself, as I spend most of the time pretending I'm fine. I get tired quite often and sometimes I've just had enough, and people don't always understand because they can't see the problem. At camp I don't have to explain myself and can rest or sit out of activities and I don't have to explain myself, everyone just gets it."
Arthritis NSW also offers education sessions to community groups, business groups and retirement villages. Their valuable network of support groups located across the state also help to provide members a place to discuss various topics, to share their experiences, to build friendships and to learn more about how to manage their condition.
The organisation also engages with the community through value-driven membership program, through publications such as Arthritis Matters, via social media platforms and newsletter subscriptions, and through a toll-free Arthritis Infoline on 1800 011 041, helping to connect callers with highly qualified health professionals.
Arthritis NSW has also committed to extending its services to rural New South
Wales. Rural NSW is where services, support and education are often lacking for people with arthritis. Thanks to the incredible contributions of its donors, the organisation has been able to launch its Rural Health Initiative in 2018, (now a formal Rural Health Program in 2019) enabling the organisation to visit six rural towns to deliver much-needed education and support. This was further established as part of their Living Well with Arthritis seminar, which was held in, Bathurst and Mudgee, with further seminars to be held in Dubbo, Queanbeyan and Wagga Wagga, covering such topics as arthritis management, pain management, exercising with arthritis and nutrition.
One example of Arthritis NSW's assistance to rural communities is Macksville local John Hutchinson, 83, who was struggling to manage his painful arthritis while operating his chicken, cattle and produce farm. He rang the ANSW Arthritis Info Line. He had been advised to have surgery but was concerned that the length of recovery time would impact his business. After advising John on exercise and nutrition, the team suggested that a rheumatologist could either provide reassurance around the recommendation or offer alternatives.
Knowing he would wait six months for his appointment, John said he would welcome a community event in Macksville where he could learn how to improve his mobility, maintain his independence and keep his business alive until he could access specialised medical help. Thanks to stories such as John's and so many other people from country NSW, Arthritis NSW were inspired to run the Rural Health Appeal. And thanks to the appeal donors and sponsorship from Community Underwriting, Arthritis NSW mobilised their health services to visit rural communities and give them the information and options to help them manage their condition and improve their lives.
Arthritis NSW does not receive government funding. Only through the enormous generosity of major and regular donors, bequestors, corporate partners and sponsors, as well as their Patron, Her Excellency The Honourable Margaret Beazley AO, QC, and its Vice Patron, Mr Dennis Wilson, the organisation is able to deliver life-changing services to the 1 in 4 adults and 1 in 1000 children in New South Wales who live with arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions, including research, development and education programs. The diverse and inclusive community of members, volunteers, social media followers, monthly newsletter subscribers and users of the organisation's health services also helps the organisation continue to thrive.
The work done by Arthritis NSW is incredibly rewarding, helping to give those living with arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions the strength, education and support they deserve no matter their age, background or lifestyle. But most of all, they want them to realise their own personal meaning of 'Freedom From Arthritis'.