Background People with Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Diseases (RMDs) who live in remote and rural areas are often not aware of the benefits of proper health care. The time taken for these people to reach a health care professional in major cities is a prohibiting factor, as they are unable to travel by themselves and require assistance, mostly from close family members. Another prohibiting factor for these people is the financial crisis that has affected a great number of people, both due to unemployment and a reduction in the amount of money given to pensioners. This group of fellow citizens may also have decreased awareness of the services that are available to them, by social services and by health professionals. The health professionals would be able to therefore improve the quality of life for these people who do not have access to basic medical treatment. This was one of the main goals of Cosmos-Rheuma+ which is a newly formed association, comprised of health professionals involved in the rehabilitation of people with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases.
Objectives Due to the above reasons, a multi-disciplinary team (MDT) comprised of six different health care professions, decided to provide their services on a voluntary basis to people living in remote areas, mostly in the mountainous areas. The main goals of this team was to provide immediate treatment to this vulnerable group of people, educate them on various aspects of health care, increase their awareness of their diseases and advise them about their health care. The MDT would be able to set up referral pathways for further evaluation should this be necessary.
Methods Members of various professional bodies were approached by the representative of each professional body, informing them about the planned projects. Each professional body was responsible for collecting the necessary materials needed for treating the patients. Additionally, representatives of the communities in interest were contacted, to ensure that the locals would be informed accordingly. The pilot project was held in September 2013, where 98 people were assessed and treated. The second project was held in January 2014, where more than 150 were assessed, treated and given advice on their general health care regime.
Results Following the success of the pilot project, a second project was planned. Sponsorship for the project was gained, and this enabled the volunteers to provide the old-age people with reading material and assistive devices such as walking sticks. A greater number of health professionals participated in the second project which allowed for more people to be screened and treated.
Conclusions The multi-disciplinary team of health professional volunteers plans to continue with the above projects and reach out to an even greater number of people with RMDs and old-age pensioners living in remote rural areas. The projects will be carried out every two months. Future plans include revisiting the communities to re-assess the people who had been treated and educated either verbally or with printed material. Demographic data will also be collected for further study and interpretation.
Disclosure of Interest None declared