Background Arthritis is a disease that is commonly known to the general public as an older persons disease. However, the reality is that many young people live with this disease. In Ireland 165,000 people under the age of 55 live with arthritis and over a 1,000 children and teenagers. Naturally isolation is a common feeling amongst this group. This cohort have very complex but also very different needs and as such require programmes and services that address these issues.
Over the past number of years Arthritis Ireland has incorporated youth across all aspects of the organisation. We've segmented our services for the first time introducing a youth services creating two different groups:
A)children,teenagers and their families B)adults under the age of 50
This has allowed us to create a service that is not just appealing and attractive but also inclusive for people of all ages.
Today we have a vibrant network of people including many young people motivated to changing the face of arthritis. Our organisation incorporates youth activities across all levels.
Objectives As an organisation we wanted to ensure that we represented the needs of all people with arthritis including younger people with arthritis.
Methods We carried out research across our entire youth network. After our needs analysis it was evident that the needs of young people are very different. Another important aspect of our analysis revealed that needs directly relating to this age group change several times as they approach different life stage for example: a child becoming a teenager or an adult starting a family. Thus it is important to cater for this and acknowledged that when this will happen is very individual especially for the 18-50 age group.
Arthritis Ireland made small changes to begin with but our service has increased significantly over the past number of years. We segmented our services in into two age groups, within each category we have various programmes to cater for this wide range of needs. An example of this is that the needs of a child are very different to that of a teenager. How we communicate with various people within these groups is also different and requires a different strategic approach than that traditionally used.
Our children, teenagers and parents group have a wide range of services some of which include: self- management programmes, a helpline, rheumatology clinic support for families, hydrotherapy, family days and a teenage programme. Our adults under the age of 50 programme includes online supports, services, and information such as forum's and e-learning while also hosting social events, self-management and physical activity programmes.
Conclusions Today we have a full time person dedicated to managing our youth services on a national level and also a vibrant volunteer youth network. In addition to this, youth is at the heart of what we do and as an organisation is incorporated right across all departments.
While we segmented some of our services dedicated to youth, young people are representing across all our programmes and services. Providing a dedicated youth service has allowed us to interact with a great number of people, thus having a greater impact on their quality of life
Disclosure of Interest None declared