Arthritis Society announces three new programs to support children with arthritis

March 11, 2013

Children receive new backpacks in kickoff to Childhood Arthritis Month

Nine-year-old Aaliyah Hester and a group of other children with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA) received special backpacks today from Janet Yale, president and CEO of The Arthritis Society.

The presentations were made at the kickoff to Childhood Arthritis Month, held at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids). Over 60,000* young Canadians face the debilitating chronic pain of arthritis, robbing them of their childhoods. The Arthritis Society wants to hand back childhood, and help these kids enjoy being kids.

In recognition of March as Childhood Arthritis Month, Ms. Yale announced that The Arthritis Society has established three new programs: a National Childhood Arthritis Advisory Committee, a Backpack Program for children 10 and under diagnosed with arthritis, and a Donations Program to fund research and programs targeted specifically towards addressing the challenges of childhood arthritis.

“Over 4.6 million Canadians currently live with arthritis,” said Ms. Yale. “But how many people would guess that so many of those are below the age of sixteen – or that arthritis is among the most common of childhood chronic conditions? The answer is: Too many.” 

“It hurts, sometimes a lot”, 9-year-old Aaliyah told the assembled group of children, parents and health professionals about living with arthritis. “And it makes me sad sometimes. But I’m getting treatment, and now there are lots of things that I can do. I made our school volleyball team, and we won our tournament.”

Aaliyah, from Barrie, ON, lives with polyarticular-JIA, a severe form of childhood arthritis where the autoimmune system attacks healthy growing joints, causing crippling pain, inflammation and restricted motion. It is suggested that JIA afflicts about 1 in 1000 children, and poly-JIA afflicts roughly 1 in 10,000, but those figures are estimates and more research is needed.

“JIA is frustrating,” explained Dr. Brian Feldman, Senior Scientist and Head of SickKids’ Rheumatology Department, and newly appointed Chair of the National Childhood Arthritis Advisory Committee, “for the simple reason that it is ‘idiopathic’ – which literally means we don’t know why it happens or where it comes from. The new donations program announced today will help in part to fund research to answer important questions like these. Answers that will lead directly to treatments and techniques that will help these kids lead lives with less pain and with more freedom.”

“Something as simple as a backpack can make a big difference”, said parent advocate Mark Trenton, whose daughter Laura has been living with poly-JIA since she was seven. “Just knowing that someone understands what we’re going through and is there to help.”

In naming Dr. Feldman to Chair the new Advisory Committee, Janet Yale stressed the importance of collaboration. “Initiatives cannot be developed in isolation from the physicians, families and other stakeholders who know the challenges and the solutions best. This committee includes health professionals, caregivers and young Canadians living with arthritis – and their experience and expertise will help inform and guide The Society’s Childhood Arthritis strategy and future programs and initiatives. Because of their engagement, those programs will be better. They will do more.”

*source: Public Health Agency of Canada, Life with Arthritis in Canada: A Personal and Public Health Challenge (Ottawa: Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, 2010)

ABOUT THE ARTHRITIS SOCIETY

The Arthritis Society is dedicated to a vision of living well while creating a future without arthritis. It is Canada’s principal health charity providing education, programs and support to 4.6 million Canadians with arthritis and their loved ones. Since its founding in 1948, The Society has been the largest non-government funder of arthritis research in Canada by investing more than $180 million in projects that have led to breakthroughs in the diagnosis, treatment and care of people with arthritis. Visit The Society at www.arthritis.ca.

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For further information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Douglas Emerson
demerson@arthritis.ca
tel: 416.979.7228 ext.3348