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Congress should help fund arthritis plan

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Arthritis is a major national health problem. With more than 40 million Americans of all ages affected by more than 100 forms of the disease, arthritis has become the leading cause of disability in the United States and continues to strike at an alarming rate. The number of people affected by arthritis will surge to nearly 60 million by the year 2020, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. In Utah and Idaho alone, more than 383,000 people have arthritis, making their simplest tasks seem nearly impossible at times.

Arthritis has taken its toll on the health of the economy as well. It is estimated that arthritis has a $65 billion impact on the American economy each year, approximately 1.1 percent of the gross national product and equal to a moderate economic recession.But even in the face of these staggering numbers, decisive action from Congress may help ease the pain. Federal support is needed for an arthritis defense strategy developed by the Arthritis Foundation. This strategy includes funding from the CDC to develop the National Arthritis Action Plan, a comprehensive health project that emphasizes prevention and will help reduce the burden of arthritis on Americans.

The foundation is also requesting an increase in the budget of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases and inclusion of an arthritis chapter in Healthy People 2010, the nation's strategic planning guide for health promotion and disease prevention.

The Arthritis Foundation is calling on Congress to support an appropriations bill that will fund $10 million to the CDC to initiate the National Arthritis Action Plan. The plan will address arthritis issues with public health programs and policies developed through partnerships with governmental, voluntary, professional, private and academic institutions and organizations. The increase in the NIAMS budget will ensure the organization can continue its research for a cure.

The Arthritis Foundation hopes that cooperation among scientists, legislators, and health-care companies and increased public awareness will place the goal of curing some forms of arthritis and managing the impact of most other forms realistically within reach.