“Arthritis can affect anyone at any age.”

“Gout is more common in New Zealand than anywhere else in the world.”

“There is a shortage of rheumatologists in New Zealand.”

“I really wish the newer biologics were available in this country.”

I’m sure you are familiar with the issues highlighted by the quotes above. These are just some of the stories that I have come across in the last few months. I’ve been working at Arthritis New Zealand since May this year. Part of my work so far has involved identifying the issues that matter most to you and working out key priorities for Arthritis New Zealand in the run-up to the election on 23 September, and for the Government to consider after the election.

We asked all of you to prioritise a list of issues earlier this year and let us know any others you would like us to advocate for on your behalf. As a new person in the organisation, this work has served as a good introduction and is really useful in helping me understand the wide range of issues faced by people with arthritis.

The survey found that your most pressing issue is government recognition of arthritis as a health priority, followed by better access to medications and rheumatologists. We’ve made sure to include these in the manifesto we’ve developed for the election campaign, and will continue to raise these important issues on your behalf both locally and nationally. You can find our manifesto on our website www.arthritis.org.nz

We’ve also included testing for gout as a priority. This very painful form of arthritis is more common in New Zealand than anywhere else in the world, and affects Māori and Pacific people particularly. A simple test to identify the risk of gout and enable effective treatment would have a huge impact on many families.

Accessible packaging is another issue on our list. Many of you have told us stories about the challenges of opening medication, milk cartons, battery packets, cans, dishwasher detergent, cat food, laundry powder and makeup, among others. We understand the frustrations with a range of packaging and will continue to raise awareness about this in our advocacy work.

You might hear from me in an email, or with a survey I’ve sent out. I’d like to capture the experiences of everyone who has arthritis and share some of the more interesting and surprising stories with you.

Get in touch if you would like to become an advocate or find out more. Email advocacy@arthritis.org.nz or fill out the advocacy form on our website www.arthritis.org.nz/information/issues/