Background Osteoarthritis (OA) and chronic widespread pain are debilitating conditions that come with a great socio economic cost. Unfortunately there is very little understanding of these conditions in the general public, even after someone has received their diagnosis. Both national and international treatment guidelines heavily emphasize the importance of information, physical exercise and weight control as a way in managing the symptoms.
Research has shown that patients with these conditions benefit from information regarding their condition, their risk factors, available treatments and self-care advice. The Swedish Rheumatism Association started the patient education project in 2008, where individuals with these conditions are trained in teaching self-management to other patients. Together with the National Health Service these communicators then go on to run patient schools aiming to increase the patient's quality of life through self-management.
The idea of having patients training patients was very novel at the time, but we believe that having both a health care professional and a communicator as teachers will increase the participants' compliance. The communicator will act as living proof that the official guidelines of maintaining an active life style actually make a difference. Hearing advice about physical activity from someone with the same conditions as yourself will highlight the importance of the message, instead of letting you think “It is easy for her/him (the health care professional) to say, she/he is healthy”. Having the communicator initiate and lead the discussion will facilitate the patient's ability to interact and many creative solutions to problems will surface. At the same time discussing your problems with someone in the same position as you self will reduce their importance.
Objectives The aim of this work is to improve the quality of life and raise activity levels in patients with osteoarthritis and chronic widespread pain, and to reduce health care consumption and sickness absence as a consequence of these conditions. Another aim is to increase the awareness of what the Swedish Rheumatism Association can offer these patients and make them join the association.
Methods The national health services work together with a communicator from the local rheumatism association to deliver a self-management program. The program consists of three to four sessions and one of the sessions is led by a communicator. After the sessions an optional exercise program is offered.
Results After it's launch in 2008 a communicator from the local rheumatism association has now become an integral part of the activities offered by the Rheumatism Association. Every year about 70 communicators are trained. The year 2014 ca 1300 self-management programs were run in cooperation with the national health services.
The Rheumatism Association have gained several new members and some of the local associations have increased the activities offered to include different kinds of physical activity.
Conclusions At the launch of the project we had very few expectations, but are very satisfied to have seen the impact the patient led self-management programs have had on so many of our members. We have reached one of our main goals as an organization, to have a living dialogue with one of our target groups.
Disclosure of Interest None declared