Background In previous population based epidemiological studies we have found that most patients with rheumatoid arthritis or seronegative spondylarthritis consult rheumatologists long after their disease onset, resulting in incorrect diagnosis and treatment1,2. Since insufficient public awareness of rheumatic diseases may be a main cause for this delay, during the last three years the Hellenic Foundation of Rheumatology has organized and conducted free informational seminars for the public in large cities of the country to increase public awareness of rheumaticdiseases.
Objectives To assess the impact of educational seminars on rheumatic diseases for the public on its awareness of these diseases.
Methods Two phone surveys were conducted in 6 large cities of Greece; the first survey was conducted six months before and the second six months after having carried out public educational meetings on rheumatic diseases in these cities. The first survey was conducted on a randomly selected sample of 951 adults (≥19 yrs old)and the second on 912 adults from the randomly selected houses of the first survey. Both surveys were based on a standardized questionnaire aiming to reveal i) the level of public awareness regarding which system or organs are mainly affected by rheumatic diseases, and ii) which medical specialist healthy subjects would consult if they presented non-traumatic musculoskeletal pain, or which medical specialist patients had consulted if they already had non-traumatic joint, back or neck pain for >1.5 month duration within the last 12 months.
Results The participation rate in the first survey was 87.4% and in the second 89.7%; the mean age of the participants was 55.6 (±16.5) and 54.1 (±15.3) yrs, respectively. The level of awareness of rheumatic diseases in terms of knowing that these diseases mainly affect the musculoskeletal system or joints was significantly higher in the second (22.6%) compared to the first survey (13.6%) (p<0.0001). Of the 830 and 818 participants in the first and the second survey 619 and 579, respectively, were healthy, while 211 (25.4%) and 239 individuals (29.2%), respectively, were patients with non-traumatic pain involving their joints, back or neck. The percentages of healthy subjects that would visit a rheumatologist in case of having non-traumatic pain in knee/shoulder or ≥2 joints were significantly higher in the second than in the first survey (7.4% vs 4.4%, p=0.024, and 34.9% vs 22.1%, p<0.0001, respectively). Similarly, the percentages of patients which had visited a rheumatologist while having had non-traumatic pain in their joints, back, or neck for >1.5 month duration within the last year were higher in the second than in the first survey (34.5% vs 21.1%, p=0.016, 9.8% vs 3.4%, p=0,.045, and 17.2% vs 7.6%, p=0.095, respectively).
Conclusions The findings of the present study suggest that seminars for the public on rheumatic diseases significantly increase the level of public awareness of these diseases, leading to increased percentages of patients with such diseases who consulted rheumatologists. Therefore, it is apparent that a program, including informational seminars on rheumatic diseases, for systematic education of the public at a national level is highly needed.
Disclosure of Interest None Declared