In April this year Arthritis New Zealand appeared before the Health Select Committee at Parliament to speak to a written submission it made following the launch of the report on the economic cost of arthritis in New Zealand.

The submission made to the Select Committee is a cry for help from people who have watched officials meet for decades without seeing any material improvements. One senior clinician noted that “these discussions have been going on for 20 years and little has changed”.

Policymakers rarely cite arthritis and often dismiss arthritis as a significant health issue. Our submission included stories about clients who have arthritis and the challenges they face.

Some key points in the submission

Asking the Ministry of Health to formulate a national strategy and model of care for the management and treatment of arthritis in New Zealand.

Currently, there is no national strategy and model of care to manage the escalating numbers of people who have arthritis – by 2040 it is projected that there will be one million people affected and of these, half will be of working age. The submission also highlighted the link between arthritis and deteriorating mental health. Other issues mentioned were the shortage of rheumatologists and special interest GPs, the lack of national consistency leading to healthcare by postcode and varying adherence to guidelines for care. A national model of care would include early intervention and diagnosis, ongoing treatment with co-ordinated care, information and advice to assist people to remain in the workforce and development on non-surgical interventions.

Give significant attention to improving the management and care of gout arthritis:

Gout arthritis is a form of arthritis with longstanding inadequacy and inequity of treatment and management, with grave consequences for non¬≠ treatment. It is also more prevalent in MńĀori and Pacific populations as these groups have a genetic predisposition to gout arthritis. Understanding that gout arthritis is not primarily a lifestyle disease, but a genetically determined one is an important message.

Proper treatment of gout arthritis can be a low cost, low tech intervention and lead to significant savings in acute treatment of gout arthritis and the associated co-morbidities such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension and kidney disease.

Our submission received an excellent response from the Select Committee, with MPs expressing a desire to improve services for people with arthritis and the Ministry of Health indicating a willingness to work with Arthritis New Zealand to address our concerns. A follow-up meeting, convened by the Director-General of Health, has been held with the initial focus on gout arthritis and the implementation of follow-up in areas with a high prevalence of gout arthritis as a starting point.

We will provide regular updates on progress as we work with the Ministry. If you would like to read the full submission, click here. or you can call 0800 663 463 and ask to have a copy sent to you.

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