Background The impact of having arthritis can be extremely difficult for anyone but when you are young the impact can be devastating. In addition to chronic physical symptoms the condition can also affect the young person’s emotional well being, social development and educational attainment. Over the last few years Arthritis Care has been developing a body image personal development programme which enables young people with arthritis to explore issues around body image, self esteem, confidence, self awareness, decision making, relationships, personal values and attitudes.
Objectives The main objectives were: (a) to enhance young people’s personal development through building up self confidence and self-esteem. (b) to improve understanding of the challenges of having arthritis and how to deal with them (c) to recognise the importance of dealing with the psychosocial as well as medical aspects of arthritis (d) to decrease isolation (e) bring fun back into lives.
Methods Arthritis Care has been running this evolving programme for the last five years, running on average two per year with a cohort of 15 young people on each event. The training events were facilitated by a total of nine youth volunteers who all have arthritis and have undergone extensive skills and equality training carried out by an independent trainer. Recruitment of the participants was carried out by referrals from existing health professional contacts. Using pre and post course self evaluations all participants carried out individual assessment on a number of themes which were covered in the courses. The results were then compared.
Results Qualitative results from pre and post course questionnaires showed that 100% of the course participants recorded increase in self confidence and feeling more positive about their arthritis and reduction in feelings of isolation. 97% of course participants recorded increased confidence in expressing feelings about the effects of arthritis to others and had a more positive outlook for the future. Many of the course participants also added very positive comments on the quality, content and delivery of the courses which have been captured in the evaluation reports.
Conclusion The emerging theme from the participants on all of the training courses was that there is a lot of work to be done on raising awareness and reducing stigma around young people with arthritis. Arthritis is traditionally seen as an older person’s condition. It is therefore essential that young people with arthritis are given the confidence and skills to contribute fully to change existing attitudes. Arthritis Care has already been delivering a range of residential and non residential training to young people aged between 12 and 25 years old with similar positive outcomes in Northern Ireland, Scotland and South England. The organisation is currently in the process of evaluating the most effective way of measuring the long term impact of such training
Disclosure of Interest None Declared
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