The Osteoarthritis Action Alliance (OAAA) is now based at the Thurston Arthritis Research Center in the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. The OAAA is a broad coalition of health leaders and stakeholders committed to elevating osteoarthritis (OA) as a national health priority, according to a news release issued by the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.

Leigh F. Callahan, PhD, designates UNC’s Thurston Arthritis Research Center as an organization at the forefront of community-based research and public health efforts ranging from understanding the disease process around OA, to strategies for prevention and early intervention, and investigating the economic impact of OA. As a result “we are uniquely positioned to manage the OAAA. We are very excited to be leading this consortium,” Callahan says.

Callahan is the Mary Link Briggs Distinguished Professor of Medicine at the UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center and director of OAAA.

The release reports that the OAAA includes more than 30 member organizations and plans to expands its membership extensively in early 2015 to accomplish its mission and goals of impacting awareness, education and management of OA among policymakers at all levels, healthcare providers and systems, communities and individuals.

To address the individual and national toll of OA, the OAAA works to promote self-management and lifestyle strategies such as weight management, joint injury prevention, and physical activity.

According to the release, one of the major projects the OAAA is launching from UNC is its Implementation Guide for Environmental and Policy Strategies to Increase Physical Activity Among Adults with Arthritis.

The Guide is comprised of online resources designed to increase physical activity around six key sectors. These include business, healthcare, parks and recreation, mass media, communities, and transportation and land use.

In an effort to encourage the use of the Implementation Guide, the OAAA will also launch a mini-grant program in early 2015 to fund several small community-based projects intended to bolster physical activity in one ore more sector(s) of their choosing.

Kristen R. Ambrose, MS, CCRC, program manager of the OAAA, states in the release that as a consortium, the OAAA has the potential to facilitate change among policymakers or healthcare systems or communities in larger ways than would be feasible for a single organization.

“For example, through the Implementation Guide, we can encourage communities to improve walkability so that people with arthritis can get out and move, knowing that there are plenty of park benches so they can rest or that have enough time to cross the street at timed crosswalks. You don’t think about this until you have joint pain and can no longer move as easily or quickly. We can change this,” Ambrose says.

The OAAA has also developed educational brochures available in English and Spanish on issues such as anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury prevention and weight management and joint pain, the release notes. A monthly Lunch and Learn series invites content experts to give free webinars to OAAA members and the public, which are then posted on the OAAA website and YouTube channel for viewing.

Healthcare professionals should focus on treating OA more as the chronic disease it really is, rather than intervening once patients have significant pain or are disabled, according to Joanne Jordan, MD, MPH, the Joseph P. Archie, Jr. Eminent Professor of Medicine, Chief of the Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology and director of the Thurston Arthritis Research Center.

“Lifestyle changes that reduce excess weight and support physical activity are beneficial not only for the management of OA, but also can help reduce risks for diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. The OA Action Alliance recognizes the importance of including OA in this conversation,” Jordan adds.

Source(s): Newswise, University of North Carolina School of Medicine