Background Since its birth, 25 years ago one of CYPLAR’s aims was to raise awareness of rheumatic diseases as most people, due to prejudices, believed that rheumatic diseases affected only old persons. Also, The need to educate patients and thus empower them in order to effectively manage their disease appeared as vital. The importance of early referral was realized for avoiding serious problems in the future.
Objectives According to the above aims, in order to enhance awareness amongst the patients, health professionals, medical professionals, government bodies, and the public the Cyprus league realized that a strong campaign was required. The target was to give people some guidelines to recognize their symptoms and refer to a Doctor, educate Doctors and promote early referral, and help decision makers realize the large social cost involved when people are not productive. Education of patients was a main objective as an informed patient is able to participate in the decisions regarding his treatment and be in “partnership” with his Physician and other health professional involved in the process.
Methods The ‘awareness week for RMDS’, takes place in May every year and operates under the auspices of the Minister of Health and so it gets large publicity. Posters are designed by our volunteers and are posted in doctor’s offices, pharmacies, hospitals. Information material is given out to the public outside State –owned hospitals. Volunteers and members of the Board have a dynamic appearance on the Media to present the events of the programme, the aims and objectives of the League, the services offered to patients. A press conference is organized with the presence of the Minister with large coverage on the T.V, Radio and newspapers. Workshops take place in all districts for educating patients as to the self –management of their disease, offering also psychological support. A conference is organized with presentations from patients, health professionals and with the aim of informing, educating patients. Active interaction takes place as discussion follows with beneficial effects for patients and the public.
Results Raising awareness. Enchasing education of stakeholders. People come to realize that early diagnosis and appropriate treatment can avoid future problems, co –morbidities and disabilities. The public comes to understand that not only old people are affected by RMD’s but members of their own family, friends and children. Facilitation of communication between Doctor and Patient. – Stronger voice to patients for achievement of their rights to proper care. Education of patients enables them to participate in decisions regarding the process of their treatment. “Reminding” decision makers that appropriate treatment aids patient to remain productive and reduces social costs. Acquiring new members and volunteers.
Conclusions Awareness, education are necessary to early diagnosis and effective treatment. “Awareness week” serves this purpose and empowers patients. Helps them leave an indepent life by self management of their disease and remaining productive. Aids families and friends develop empathy for people suffering from RMD’s. Serves as a “pressure tool” for people that define policy and helps ensure best possible care, free of costs to all rheumatic patients, giving them the opportunity to have best quality of life. Helps RMDs get recognised as major cuases of disabilities.
Disclosure of Interest None Declared