Background Often we hear from our supporters that a common response to mentioning their RA is “my granny gets a bit of that”. To dispel the myth that RA is a disease of the elderly, caused by a lifetime of wear and tear, we hosted the UK's first RA Awareness Week in June 2013. Our key message driving the week was “Rheumatoid Arthritis can strike at any age” emphasizing the important message that it is an autoimmune disease with no age barriers and we chose this to breakdown the common misconception of “arthritis” being an older persons disease that has minimal impact on daily life, a false representation of life for people with RA.
Objectives Our objective for the week was to increase awareness of rheumatoid arthritis with the general public and our particular focus was on the onset of symptoms and their development at any age. We also wanted to highlight our support services and the work of NRAS to those living with RA.
Methods We knew that to be successful and reach a wide audience; we needed our supporters and members to be heavily involved in the week. To cater for varying levels of involvement, we ensured we had opportunities suitable for all. Our report “Breaking Down Barriers: Rheumatoid Arthritis and Public Awareness” launched the week and was responsible for much of the press we received. We asked our supporters to sign the e-petition, we used social media to share our week specific video, our infographics and photos, we hosted a thunderclap (a crowd speaking platform, essentially it sends a mass tweet at a specific time to try and get the campaign trending) which reached 80,000 people, we challenged our supporters and members to hold an information stand within their community, source local press, deliver our information and put up posters, and we challenged our fundraisers to hold a Tea Party.
Results The week was a tremendous success: the survey discovered only a third of the population of the UK understood the difference between RA and osteoarthritis. The report launched the Early Day Motion 286 drawing attention to the important role of early diagnosis and the British public's low levels of awareness of RA. Our volunteers ran information stands 34 in total, educating people on RA and helping to recruit new members. We had an information evening in our local area with an expert Q&A session. 16 fundraising Tea Parities were held during the week and we received excellent coverage in the media and contact to our helpline increased by 33%. We also had strong buy-in from other charities in the arena and industry. Our social reach was almost 100,000 people.
Conclusions Feedback we received from our members, our service users and HCPs was very supportive and encouraging. In addition to the success we enjoyed during the week it has confirmed the need to make this an annual event. For 2014 we will host RA Awareness Week on 16th-22nd June, with our key message to raise awareness of the invisible impacts of RA.
Disclosure of Interest None declared