News Release

PO 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360
Christine Grant
Commissioner
For Release:
February 17, 2000
For Further Information Contact:
Dennis McGowan
(609) 984-7160
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Commissioner Announces Arthritis Initiatives
Focusing on Prevention, Early Diagnosis and Treatment

TRENTON - Health and Senior Services Commissioner Christine Grant today unveiled initiatives focusing on the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of arthritis and other rheumatic diseases. The initiatives include the funding of two regional arthritis centers and a statewide conference and resource directory. The initiatives are supported by $634,000 in state funds and a $62,000 grant from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Arthritis is the most common, crippling and costly chronic disease in the United States, affecting more than 40 million Americans of all ages, or nearly 15% of the population. The CDC estimates that by the year 2020, one-in-five Americans will be affected by arthritis.

Grant said the new initiatives are the result of the Arthritis Quality of Life Initiative Act signed by Governor Christie Whitman last year. The Act provided funds for programs to promote public awareness about arthritis, options for prevention, the value of early detection and treatment, and the delivery of services aimed at preventing arthritis-related health complications and improving quality of life.

"These initiatives will allow us to raise public awareness, better educate healthcare professionals and establish much-needed programs and services for both adults and kids suffering from arthritis and other rheumatic diseases," said Grant.

Grant said Atlantic Health System Hospital Corporation and Virtua Health/West Jersey Health System have been selected to develop regional arthritis centers serving six northern and five southern counties, respectively. The systems were awarded $232,000 each and will conduct surveys to assess the needs of their communities; publish a local service directory; distribute brochures and other educational material; and host a number of focus groups, workshops and presentations for healthcare professional, persons with arthritis and family members.

Both health systems will also sponsor self-help groups and exercise and/or weight management courses in each county served. Information on programs will be available through new or expanded telephone information lines and web sites.

As part of their award, Atlantic Health System will establish a permanent exhibit related to arthritis at Liberty Science Center that focuses on injury prevention and risk-reducing behaviors such as weight control, nutrition and exercise. Virtua will offer several weekly water exercise classes for program participants. Virtua will also host exercise and weight management courses within the City of Camden.

In addition to the hospitals, the New Jersey Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation has been awarded $48,348 to sponsor a statewide conference for healthcare professionals and develop and disseminate a statewide arthritis resource directory. The chapter will also identify, train and certify five health professionals who in turn will each train 10 arthritis self-help course co-leaders. The co-leaders, working in pairs consisting of a health professional and a person with arthritis, will then work with hospitals and other community agencies to create, support and sustain arthritis education and self-help programs statewide.

Grant said her department will receive guidance and direction on these initiatives from a statewide Advisory Council on Arthritis set to meet for the first time next month. The council will monitor and offer input into all initiative aspects, including public information and outreach campaigns; professional education programs; programs and services aimed at prevention, reducing complications and improving quality of life; and the overall information, referral and support network for people with arthritis. The council will also evaluate outcome-based research and make recommendations for improvement of care and treatment of arthritis.

"These initiatives clearly establish New Jersey as a national leader in the study, prevention and treatment of arthritis," said Grant.

For more information on arthritis, call the Arthritis Foundation's New Jersey Chapter at 1-888-467-3112, or visit the foundation's web site at www.arthritis.org.

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