Arthritis Ireland pioneered the Stanford University developed Arthritis Self- Management Programme – known as Living Well with Arthritis in Ireland - back in 2006. This was in response to the needs of people with arthritis to help them deal with the complexities and life-transforming issues arising from living with arthritis.
Since that time, we have delivered almost 250 courses to nearly 4,500 people living with all types of arthritis and rheumatic diseases through a network of over 80 trained course Leaders and 2 Master Trainers, most of whom are themselves living with arthritis.
Research and evaluation are essential in providing the robust evidence that Arthritis Ireland's courses are effective and that funding is being well spent. To this end we carried out a review amongst course participants from 2006 to 2010 with very positive outcomes.
A 7% decrease in fatigue was recorded and sustained after 1 year. In relation to scores along the disability scale very positive results were shown with participants reporting 14% less disability around household chores and everyday tasks such as dressing and washing oneself. There was a 17% decrease, sustained at year 1, in participants' arthritis interfering with social activities.
Encouragingly, given the strong medical evidence that exercise is safe and effective in the fight against arthritis, participants reported a significant uptake in exercise behaviour such as stretching and strengthening work and aerobic exercise was sustained even at the 1 year stage.
Some very encouraging results around the use of health care have shown that the Living Well with Arthritis Programme can reduce costs to the health system. In our study, patients reported a 25% reduction in visits to GPs, fewer emergency department visits, fewer visits to the hospital clinic and fewer overnight hospital stays.
Furthermore, the programme has become a key tool for recruitment of highly engaged and committed volunteers for the organisation. The vast majority of volunteers involved in Arthritis Ireland support services are Living Well with Arthritis past participants, a noteworthy indicator of the powerful effect the course has had on their lives.
Disclosure of Interest None declared