The 1 in 7 Australians living with arthritis need more support – Arthritis Australia launches its election platform

Click to download our  2022 Federal Election Platform

Arthritis Australia is calling on politicians to support a package of measures to improve support for people with arthritis, including urgently addressing gaps in care for children with arthritis, and support for people languishing on joint surgery waiting lists.

More than 3.6 million Australians of all ages live with arthritis and associated pain and disability, projected to increase to 5.4 million by 2030. Arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions are the most expensive disease group, with an estimated $14 billion cost to the health system in 2018, much of which could be avoided with better access to early diagnosis and multidisciplinary care.

A recent Parliamentary Inquiry into juvenile arthritis, a serious autoimmune condition affecting children, found a major shortage of paediatric rheumatologists, with access to diagnosis and treatment in Australia falling well below the standard of other countries such as the UK.

People waiting for joint surgery during the COVID-19 pandemic have faced multiple cancellations and some of the largest increases in elective surgery waiting times.

CEO Jonathan Smithers said “The COVID-19 pandemic has hit people with arthritis hard, with elective surgery cancellations leaving 32% of patients waiting over a year for a total knee replacement, ongoing shortages of critical medicines, and disrupted access to vital community programs.”

High out of pocket costs for healthcare is another key concern for people with arthritis, who must often spend thousands of dollars a year on medication alone, plus high costs to access specialist and allied health services.

“We are calling on all parties in the 2022 federal election to commit to immediate action on costs of care and joint surgery backlogs, as well as boosting investment in the community programs that make a real difference – supporting arthritis appropriate exercise, and care navigation.”

 “We also need to fix the chronic underinvestment in arthritis research. Arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions have a similar burden of disease to cardiovascular disease, yet only receive a fifth of the government funding.  By investing in research, we will not only provide more effective treatments and the hope of a cure, but unlock major health system savings that will benefit all Australians.”

Arthritis Australia has outlined six key recommendations in its platform:

  1. Reduce out of pocket costs for consumers
  2. Roll out a joint replacement surgery catch up and pre surgery support package
  3. A national package to improve outcomes for children with arthritis
  4. Investment in arthritis community exercise programs
  5. Funding for arthritis educators to provide better support in the community
  6. Fix the chronic underinvestment in arthritis and musculoskeletal research

Arthritis is an umbrella term for more than 100 medical conditions that affect the joints. Common forms of arthritis include osteoarthritis, a degenerative bone disease, and rheumatoid arthritis, which is a serious autoimmune condition.