Background Every year on and around WORLD ARTHRITIS DAY, our organization holds significant events to raise awareness of RMDs and stress the importance of early diagnosis and intervention before severe damage is caused to joints and vital organs. There are some who suffer unaware of the signs of RMDs or followed by wrong specialties and others suffer in silence unable to afford a rheumatologist.
Objectives This year, we aimed to reach, inform and help as many people as possible, so we decided to hold events in all the prefectures of our island making them accessible to more people. One of our goals was to offer people who had limited financial means the opportunity to be examined free of charge by rheumatologists if they suspected they might have an RMD.
Methods Firstly, we hired a firm to set up a 10x6 meter tent with a wide screen TV, microphones and all the necessary audiovisual equipment, table and chairs on the different dates in the four major cities. Secondly,we secured the commitment of local rheumatologists to do presentations, answer queries and examine participants if necessary. Furtthermore, we sent a press release to all the major newspapers informing them of the symptoms of RMDs and the importance of early referral to the “right doctor at the right moment”. We also provided all the details pertaining to the events, urging people suspecting of having an RMD to be there so that they could be examined and, if necessary, referred to a rheumatologist. We also had a press conference with the regional vice governor, Manolis Klontzas, professor of rheumatology at the UCRETE and chief of staff of Rheumatology at the University Hospital of Crete, Dr. Prodromos Sidiropoulos and the president of Arthritis Crete, Katerina Koutsogianni. They informed the public of the warning signs and the urgency for early intervention as well as where and when they could be examined. On the designated days, the members of the board and other volunteers of our organization were on hand to distribute informative leaflets, answer questions and keep things in order. The doctors spoke to the public and examined those who suspected having an RMD in a private area that we had set up. We collaborated with the Greek Rheumatology Society and Professional Association of Rheumatologists and the Hellenic Democracy Regional Government of Crete. Our campaign was incorporated into the nationwide campaign under the title of “Listen to what your body is telling you!”
Results A large number of people turned out in all four cities, some of whom had come from distant villages. Though the event was to begin at 10:00am, there were people waiting since 7:00am when we arrived at the venue to help the crew set up. A large number of them were also examined but unfortunately, not all who wanted to. A total of 223 people were examined, 179 of whom were female and 44 were male. 39.30% had already been diagnosed. 30.80% had not been diagnosed and were in immediate need of seeing a rheumatologist and being treated. 14.90% did not have an RMD and 15% were on biologics but were not followed by a rheumatologist.
Conclusions The results confirm that a lot of people suffer from rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases without treatment. What we did helped a few people and we are pleased with that, but we are not complacent! We strongly believe that we need to forge on with our awareness campaign more than ever, and continue to fight for optimal and more affordable care for people with RMDs.
Disclosure of Interest None declared