August 25, 2005 10:06 ET

The prevalence of arthritis in Canada is about to explode

Are governments doing enough to prepare for the pressure arthritis will put on our health care system? ~ An Arthritis Society report finds governments do not see arthritis as a priority ~ Attention: Health/Medical Editor, News Editor TORONTO, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Aug. 25, 2005) - Under embargo until September 1, 2005, 12:00 a.m.

The rapid increase in arthritis among Canada's baby boomers has renewed calls for a coast-to-coast strategy to cope with the debilitating effects of this chronic disease.

"Given the enormity of the financial and physical burden imposed on Canadians by arthritis, it is imperative that we make some strategic investments in arthritis care and research in Canada," said Dr. Dianne Mosher, a professor of medicine at Dalhousie University and practicing rheumatologist in Halifax.

The outcry was sparked by The Arthritis Society's release today of a report that shows Canadian provincial and federal governments do not see arthritis as a priority.

The Arthritis Society's report, Checkup on Arthritis, is the first nation-wide look into government arthritis programs and policies across Canada. The Arthritis Society pledged to do the report last year when Prime Minister Paul Martin agreed to provide an additional $41.3 billion over the next 10 years for health care. The checkup reviews the impact of this financial infusion on arthritis care in Canada.

"While the report highlights many positive and encouraging findings, it also reveals a significant lack of provincial policy, programs and funding commitments specifically directed towards arthritis across Canada," said John Fleming, President and CEO of The Arthritis Society. "With Checkup on Arthritis we wanted to identify best practices and gaps in arthritis education, care and policy," he said.

With more than four million Canadians already affected by this chronic disease, the prevalence of arthritis is quickly expanding and will affect six million people by the year 2026. The cost of arthritis in Canada is estimated at $4.4 billion each year and that number is expected to grow as more people are affected by the disease. "All levels of government must work now to prepare for the future and provide effective support and services to people with arthritis today," said Fleming.

"Checkup on Arthritis is part of our mandate to advocate for people living with arthritis," said Fleming. "We think it is only fair that all people with arthritis-regardless of where they live-have access to optimum levels of care and services. The Arthritis Society will continue to offer support to all levels of government as we work towards this important goal."


1. The federal and provincial governments, with the exception of British Columbia, do not recognize arthritis as a priority.

British Columbia is the only province that has recognized arthritis as a priority by its commitment to put a long-term arthritis management strategy in place.

There is a trend in all provinces and also on the federal level to address the more general issue of "chronic disease" in Canada. Arthritis is the most common chronic disease in children, the second most common chronic disease in women and the third most common chronic disease in men in this country; yet, it is not getting the specific attention it deserves.

2. There is a lack of data about Arthritis

Arthritis in Canada published in 2003, was an important first step to having useful data on arthritis for planning purposes. However, to fully understand the impact of arthritis, better methods for observing and tracking the prevalence and burden of arthritis in this country must be developed.

3. Wait times for consultation and joint replacement surgery are unacceptable in many provinces.

The Canadian Orthopaedic Association (COA) recommends that no patient referred to an orthopedic surgeon should be asked to wait longer than 12 weeks. In 2004, the median wait for consultation across Canada was 12 weeks (Fraser Institute). Newfoundland had the longest wait for consultation at 20 weeks. British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador and Ontario all have longer waits for consultation than acceptable by COA standards.

The COA recommends that no patient be asked to wait longer than 26 weeks after the mutual patient/surgeon decision is made to operate. Saskatchewan has the longest wait for surgery at 75.2 weeks. (Fraser Institute, 2004). On average, British Columbia, Alberta, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and PEI have longer waits for surgery than acceptable by the COA standards.

Decades of arthritis research and evidence need to be translated into a definitive plan of action. This fall, the Summit on Standards for Arthritis Prevention and Care brings together representatives from Canada's arthritis community with governments to develop national standards for arthritis prevention and care.
From October 31 to November 2, 2005, approximately 250 participants will gather in Ottawa. The outcome will be concrete and clear recommendations for government-practical, evidence-based standards for arthritis prevention and care.


With Checkup on Arthritis, The Arthritis Society urges specific action by the provincial, territorial and federal governments. To address the growing prevalence of arthritis in Canada governments must:

• Participate in the upcoming Summit on Standards for Arthritis Prevention and Care;
• Based on the outcomes of the Summit on Standards for Arthritis Prevention
and Care, make a commitment to the development, funding and implementation of a long-term Pan-Canadian Arthritis Strategy, which addresses prevention, care and treatment, education and surveillance.

The Arthritis Society is Canada's principal not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing and promoting arthritis education, community support and research-based solutions, to the more than four million Canadians living with arthritis. Since its inception in 1948, The Society has contributed more than $140 million towards arthritis research to develop better treatments and ultimately, to find a cure for this debilitating disease.


September is Arthritis Awareness Month.

To obtain a copy of the complete report or for more information contact:

Vicky Henderson, National Director of Communications and Public Relations
The Arthritis Society
416.979.7228 ext. 353 or


Lisa Pridmore
National Communications Coordinator
The Arthritis Society
819.561.5799 or
/For further information: IN: HEALTH

Contact Information

  • Vicky Henderson, Director of national communications and public relations, The Arthritis Society
    Primary Phone: 416-979-3353 ext. 353