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May 15, 2012

Arthritis Awareness Month observed in South Carolina

COLUMBIA, S.C. - May is Arthritis Awareness Month, to encourage everyone to stay active, maintain a healthy weight and avoid injuries to prevent arthritis, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control announced today.

"Governor Nikki Haley has proclaimed this observance, recognizing that arthritis is the leading cause of disability in our country," said Cora Plass, director of DHEC's Healthy Aging program. "Arthritis burdens an estimated 50 million adults, with our state ranking near the top in the number affected. In South Carolina alone, more than one million adults live with arthritis, and nearly half of them are forced to limit their activities due to symptoms associated with their condition."

According to Plass, hospital charges for primary diagnosis of arthritis exceeded $800 million in 2009, the most recent year that statistics are available. Another $450 million was spent on knee replacement procedures --- much of which resulted from complications of arthritis.

"Many people don't recognize the serious public health implications of arthritis," said Nick Turkas, senior vice president of health and wellness for the Mid-Atlantic Arthritis Foundation. "It's twice as common as heart disease, three times more common than cancer, and eight times more common than stroke. It causes pain, fatigue, and limitations in work and activity, significantly diminishing quality of life."

"New data indicate that arthritis can affect mental health," Plass said. "These new findings provide further evidence of the serious implications of arthritis and point out the need to focus on prevention. The purpose of DHECs Arthritis Program is to provide approaches to prevent arthritis when possible and to improve quality of life for those who have arthritis.

"We partner with the Arthritis Foundation, the Lt. Governor's Office on Aging and many community and faith-based organizations to offer programs that are proven to improve mental and physical health and well-being," Plass said.

"Due to our partnerships, self-management workshops and exercise classes for people with arthritis and other ongoing health conditions are available in communities throughout the state," said Crystal Strong, nutrition, health and wellness program manager with the Lt. Governor's Office on Aging. "The programs provide quality choices for older adults who come to our senior centers, but they benefit anyone who wants to make positive lifestyle changes or become more physically active."

Programs include the Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program, Arthritis Self-Management Program, Walk With Ease, Arthritis Toolkit, and Better Choices, Better Health (Chronic Disease Self-Management Program).

For more information about program locations, call 1-866-899-3663 or visit DHEC's Healthy Aging website at


For media inquiries:
Jim Beasley - (803) 898-7769
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