News Release
   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
   June 8, 2001

Christine Grant

For Further Information Contact:
Dennis McGowan


State Issues Arthritis Statistical Report

TRENTON - Approximately 28% of New Jersey adults have some form of arthritis, and less than a quarter of those diagnosed with arthritis are currently being treated for the condition by a physician. In addition, almost half of those diagnosed with arthritis don't know what type of arthritis they have, an important factor for effective treatment of the disease.

These are among the findings contained in a report on arthritis prevalence and risk factors released today by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services. The report, titled Arthritis in New Jersey: Findings from the New Jersey Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, is the most comprehensive survey on the disease ever conducted in the state and was supported, in part, under a cooperative agreement with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"This report will serve as a starting point in state and national efforts to define the burden of arthritis," said Health and Senior Services Commissioner Christine Grant. "It helps increase awareness of arthritis as a public health issue and provides direction for the planning and implementation of interventions."

"It should also serve as a wake-up call to people with arthritis and healthcare providers alike. Early, accurate diagnosis and treatment of arthritis are key to preventing disability and improving quality of life," the commissioner added.

Arthritis and related musculoskeletel disorders are the number one cause of disability in the United States. Arthritis affects more than 40 million Americans of all ages, or nearly 15% of the population. This number is expected to increase to 60 million Americans by 2020.

Arthritis includes more than 100 distinct diseases and conditions affecting joints, surrounding tissues and other connective tissues. The three most common forms are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia.

Arthritis in New Jersey presents the findings from surveys of 8,283 New Jersey adults conducted by the department between 1996 and 1998. In addition, the document contains an overview of arthritis and past studies on arthritis for use by local health officers.

The surveys reveal that people with arthritis are more likely to be overweight or obese and inactive or perform irregular activity than those without arthritis. Higher rates of arthritis are present in women than men, 32% to 23%. Prevalence rates for those with arthritis increase with age, at 15% for those between the ages of 18 and 44, 36% for persons 45-64, and 52% for those age 65 and older.

Survey participants report that arthritis has a negative impact on their quality of life. Nearly 27% of adults with arthritis report their general health as fair or poor compared to just 8% of those without arthritis. In addition, people with arthritis experience an average of 9 unhealthy days each month compared with 4 days a month for those without the disease.

Today's report is the latest in a series of state initiatives focusing on the prevalence, prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of arthritis and other rheumatic diseases. Among the initiatives announced by Commissioner Grant last year were the funding of two regional arthritis centers, a statewide conference and resource directory, and the establishment of the New Jersey Advisory Council on Arthritis. Members of the council's data and research subcommittee assisted the department's Center for Health Statistics and Wellness and Family Support Program in preparing Arthritis in New Jersey.

The regional arthritis centers are operated by Atlantic Health System Hospital Corporation and Virtua Health, and serve six northern and five southern counties, respectively. The systems were awarded $232,000 each, and both centers offer self-management courses, support groups, exercise classes, and seminars on the prevention and management of arthritis. In addition, the centers sponsor educational presentations and workshops for health professionals.

The department also awarded $64,838 to the New Jersey Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation to sponsor a statewide conference for health care professionals and develop and disseminate a statewide arthritis resource directory. The chapter is also training teams of health professionals and people with arthritis to work with hospitals and other community agencies to create, support and sustain arthritis education and self-help programs statewide.

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NOTE TO REPORTERS: Copies of the report are available at the Department of Health and Senior Services' Communications Office in Trenton.

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