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OP0117-PARE Iloa Elämään – Peer Support and Networking Event for Children, Youth and Families with MSD Disease
  1. M. Ekroth,
  2. M. Ekroth,
  3. T. Pakkala
  1. The Finnish Rheumatism Association, Helsinki, Finland


Background Rheumatism can be difficult and enduring disease for the individual and their family. The day-to-day life is challenging and hard for the entire family. Furthermore, finding joy and positive energy can seem impossible at times. Networking and peer support along with positive feeling such as joy are important factors for sustaining good mental health inside the family and to support them in their everyday challenges with MSD diseases in the family.

Objectives The Finnish Rheumatism Association wanted to continue the successful Iloa Elämään (joy/happiness to life) campaign. The Iloa Elämään campaign's objective is to increase mental wellbeing mainly through events targeted for individuals with MSD. The event focus group was mainly on children from ages three to fifteen with MSD and to their families. The main instalment of Iloa Elämää campaign is a recreational day to create joy and experiences through fun activities focused towards the children. Simultaneously, bringing new energy into the families challenging lives with illness. The event was also a gateway for networking; meeting other individuals with the same challenges in their lives and to get in touch with organisations looking after their interests.

Methods The Finnish Rheumatism Association planned to create the event in cooperation with Haaga-Helia University of applied sciences and their degree programme student group. The promoting of the events were done through contact and channels of Finnish Rheumatism Association and the resources of the student group. The Finnish Rheumatism Association funded part of the project by organizing money collections in ice-hockey matches and provided content for the event. The rest was from sponsors. Sponsors such as Hesburger, Haikko Kartano-Kokous-Spa, Haribo and Helsinki's Viihdepelit.

To measure the success of the event students planned and implemented mixed method customer satisfaction research. The event was organized with close cooperation with both organisations, The Finnish Rheumatism Association and Haaga-Helia University of applied sciences.

Results The event was held at Finland Porvoo Campus 28th of November. The event lasted and had many activities throughout the whole day and had approximately 110 participants. The event peaked with a music performance with the favourite Finnish band among the teenagers, TCT.

Based customer satisfactory research 80 percent of the respondents had a family member with MSD disease, 70 percent weren't in the previous and event 93 percent though the event was successful and they enjoyed the event.

The Finnish Rheumatism Association noticed an increase in new members after the event. Moreover, it can be said some of the individuals in the event had found and joined the Finnish Rheumatism Association through the event. Many families made friends and found peer families. They have stayed in touch and supported each other still long after the event. For example a child with a rare arthritis met a peer with the same diagnosis for the first time in his life.

Conclusions The event is an important service that needs to be provided to members of the Finnish Rheumatism Association and other individuals with MSD disease. The participants enjoyed a day filled with fun activities, networking, information and support. The organizers and the participants offered support to the families living with MSD thus many were able to find new life-long friends. The event was able to reach new members and people.

Disclosure of Interest M. Ekroth Employee of: CEO

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