Background Osteoarthritis is a common disease. New studies show that as many as 25% of the Swedish population older than 45 years may be affected1. In spite of this there is little research in the area and among both general practitioners and the public the knowledge of the disease is limited. Osteoarthritis is often viewed as a result of wear and tear and old age and something the patient just needs to accept rather than the treatable disease it is.
Objectives The Swedish Rheumatism Association has observed a lack of awareness of the magnitude of osteoarthritis problem and a decision was made to try and increase the interest for research in this area.
Methods The Swedish Rheumatism Association invited researchers, decision makers, and research foundations to an osteoarthritis forum. The objective of the meeting was to identify problem areas and how research within the osteoarthritis field could be encouraged.
Following the osteoarthritis forum the Swedish Rheumatism Association opened a call for research on osteoarthritis.
Results The call received 30 applications. The applications were reviewed by a group of experts and total of 1.5 million Swedish krona were distributed between nine projects. The awarded projects span from basic research on biomarkers and disease mechanisms to studies of more epidemiological character on the natural course of knee osteoarthritis and patient perceived benefits of a supported osteoarthritis self-management program.
In addition to this, a position for an associated professor was co-founded by the Swedish Rheumatism Association.
Conclusions In order to gather the available potential for qualified osteoarthritis research there is a need to focus on osteoarthritis as an entity of its own. The research fund of Swedish Rheumatism Association distribute relatively small research grants, however, by taking the initiative to focus on osteoarthritis they can challenge and encourage other to follow their initiative.
An additional benefit of supporting osteoarthritis research is that increased research may also improve the status of osteoarthritis as a diagnosis. There is a growing awareness among the public of osteoarthritis. This is displayed as a massive interest in open lectures on osteoarthritis but also as headlines and articles in both the daily and weekly press.
The special focus on osteoarthritis research will continue the next few years. In addition to the use of money from the research fund of the Swedish Rheumatism Association the association also works to encourage other organisations that fund research to lift osteoarthritis to their agenda.
Turkiewicz A, Gerhardsson de Verdier M, Engström G, Nilsson PM, Mellström C, Lohmander LS, Englund M. Prevalence of knee pain and knee OA in southern Sweden and the proportion that seeks medical care. Rheumatology 2014 Oct 13.
Disclosure of Interest None declared