We are reminded that things are changing and the health issues we face will be greater and potentially unaffordable. We need to put countermeasures in place NOW before the health tsunami hits.

A classic example is the data by Prof. Haxby Abbott around the number of knee surgeries that will be required by 2038. The fact that we will need capacity for around 9000 replacements (up from 6000 currently) hit the front page of the major daily newspapers and featured on breakfast TV shows. The immediate question media asked was: “Will we have enough surgeons, theatres and funding?”

What they didn’t ask is what alternatives should we put in place that will effectively manage the situation within the current capacity. The recent visit by Prof. David Hunter showed that non-surgical early interventions reduced the need for costly surgery on a significant number of patients. It doesn’t mean we rule out surgery – just the right person at the right time.

We need to collaborate with primary health professionals to develop comprehensive and coordinated programmes that are patient-centric. Spending $1 upfront saves $5 later – something we need to focus on for the future.

It is these types of interventions that Arthritis New Zealand works on. More proactively targeting the preventative options than just waiting for the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff.

This includes gout arthritis where we are working with Pharmac to evaluate two primary care initiatives. These findings will be important and provide Arthritis New Zealand with the evidence to present to DHBs on solutions to reduce the impact of gout arthritis.

While working with key health providers we also want to raise the awareness of arthritis at a political level. We will have key messaging that includes workforce development for rheumatology, to lead into the coming elections.

By 2040 there will be one million people with arthritis. We need innovation and new thinking in our management of arthritis. Arthritis New Zealand will continue to advocate and lead in proactive solutions to ensure those with arthritis get the best care and support possible.

Have a safe and happy Summer,

Philip Kearney

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