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Research Strategy


Research Strategy

Research Strategy


In 2012, the Arthritis Society undertook a review of all its mission activities with the purpose of increasing reach, impact and relevancy for people with arthritis. Consultations with the community and survey results clearly pointed to one common issue of importance to Canadians with arthritis – pain. This inspired the Society to launch the SHARE THE PAIN initiative which sought to gather the opinions and needs of people with arthritis. The result was overwhelming. 40,000 visitors came to the site and shared 1,600 personal stories regarding their journey with arthritis. Analysis of these stories confirmed for The Society that the pain of arthritis is a major issue for Canadians and more must be done.

In response, the Society launched the ERASE THE PAIN initiative: a major 5-year fund raising campaign designed to address the common needs of people living with arthritis. The campaign has identified an aggressive target of $25 Million to be raised to support this initiative under the banner CureCare and Community.

Cure ($10 Million target):

  • Cracking the Code - support research focused on alleviating the pain of arthritis.
  • The Off Switch - support research aimed at discovering the causes and cure for arthritis.

Care ($10 Million target):

  • 5,000 in Five - boost the number of health professionals trained to deal with arthritis on the front lines of care by at least 5,000 over the next five years.

  • Closing the Gap - increase the number of rheumatologists to deliver effective care to an additional 350,000 Canadians.

Community ($5 Million target):

  • Community Central - create one home for Canadians living with arthritis that will serve as a combined online community centre, referral board and resource library.

As the research strategy was in its third year, it was appropriate to review the results and impacts of the program so that modifications could be made if necessary. The Society took this opportunity to survey its donor database to better understand the types of research that the Society should fund. Over 4,600 respondents participated in the survey and ranked the following areas of high importance:

  • Finding the cure for arthritis or slowing down its progression/severity

  • Prevention of arthritis

  • Joint-related pain and fatigue

On July 16, 2014, the Society's Scientific Advisory Committee and representatives of those living with arthritis reviewed the results of the survey and the performance of the current research program. Through its deliberations, the group made the following recommendations:

  • The current three themes should be modified into two themes which would be offered on alternating years1.

  • Pain should be embedded as a priority within both of the new themes.

  • Medical Cannabis for the relief of pain should be included as a strategic research priority.

Refer to Table 2 in the appendix for a schedule of Strategic Research Themes relevant to future SOG competitions.

2015-2020 Research Strategy

The Society's revised research strategy builds on the work done in 2011 on the original strategy and retains the emphasis on funding research in search of …the causes and cures of arthritis and to promote the best possible treatments and care of those with arthritis. Most importantly, the Society's research strategy and programs remain founded on principles of transparency, fairness and accountability.

The 2015-2020 Research Strategy has an emphasis on research with the purpose of alleviating the pain of arthritis as well as its consequences. Accordingly, The Society will fund projects or programs of research that are aimed at: i) Alleviating the pain of arthritis, and/or ii) discovering the causes and cure for arthritis. In addition, research must be relevant to one or both of the following Strategic Themes.

Strategic Theme I: Improving our understanding of arthritis and finding the cure.

Research under this theme will seek to improve our understanding of the causes of arthritis in order to develop new approaches to alleviate the pain, prevent and/or slow the progression of disease, restore joint function, and eventually cure those affected by arthritis.

Research programs relevant to Strategic Theme I will have a main objective of2:

  • Understanding arthritis and arthritis pain pathophysiology and identifying therapeutic opportunities;

  • Identifying and characterizing risk, and causal factors and/or development of arthritis and arthritis pain (including: biologic and endogenous factors; physical environment; and, psychological, social and economic factors);

  • Discovering, developing and evaluating diagnostic (early detection), prognostic and predictive markers and technologies (such as imaging, diagnostic and other assessment tools) of disease (including: biomarker discovery and evaluation);

  • Discovering, developing and evaluating potential therapeutic interventions in model systems and preclinical settings. (Including: pharmaceuticals; biologics; gene/cell/tissue therapies; medical devices; surgery (including joint replacement); and physical agents – including physical therapy, radiotherapy, ultrasound, laser and phototherapy).

Strategic Theme II: Improving the care and management of arthritis

Research under this theme will seek to uncover new knowledge that will inform better ways to optimize the health of people with arthritis through improved treatment, management and self-care strategies.

Research programs relevant to Strategic Theme II will include intervention research, observational studies and systematic reviews with a main objective of:

  • Primary prevention of arthritis (including: individual characteristics, risk behaviours and influences, public policy and educational interventions/programs; environment; nutrition; and, vaccines);

  • Treatment and disease management in clinical, community or population settings (including: pharmaceuticals; biologics; gene/cell/tissue therapies; medical devices; surgery; physical agents – including radiotherapy, ultrasound, laser and phototherapy; physical, behavioural, and complementary therapies);

  • Researching the individual's care (psychosocial impacts and economic consequences of disease, quality of life, management of pain and other symptoms, education), self-management (attitudes, beliefs and behaviours of health care providers; decision making; guidelines; education; and, work) of arthritis and its outcomes;

  • Psychological, physical (PT/OT, exercise), lifestyle, coping (adaptations, accommodations) and complementary treatments, programs and interventions;

  • Investigating influences and implementation issues related to screening;

  • Evaluating the organization, governance and delivery of arthritis health care services, the impact of (local, regional and national) health policy and the economics of health care as well as studies into health care research design, measurement and methodologies.

Themes have been differentiated using the UKCRC Health Research Classification System. For more detail on the types of research included in each theme, please refer to Table 2 in the appendix and

Stop Childhood Arthritis

The Arthritis Society has committed to fund $5 million in research grants between 2018 and 2022, aimed at stopping childhood arthritis in its tracks by supporting advanced scientific research into personalized medicine and optimal outcomes for children and families living with arthritis. 

Researchers dedicated to childhood arthritis and genomic research across Canada will be eligible for funding, which will be administered through our best-in-class, peer reviewed granting process that sees research awards given to the most scientifically meritorious applications put forward by Canadian researchers. The first call for research proposals to receive this funding will be included in our next round of research competitions, in the spring of 2018.

Knowledge Translation and Exchange

Research is one of the most powerful tools to help us get closer to a cure and better treatment options for those living with arthritis. For that reason, research is a primary mission investment of donor dollars each and every year. However, most of our donors do not attend conferences or have subscriptions to academic journals to learn about all of the great work that is led by Society Researchers. It is important that the results, outcomes and impacts of the research that the Society funds are available to share with donors and to help promote the work of the Society. As such, grant recipients are expected to provide the Society with Progress and End-of-Grant reports as part of its knowledge translation and exchange strategy. 

We encourage all researchers to leverage the Arthritis Society’s voice, programs and services as a way to help build awareness and interest about their research to grow the research program.