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May 3, 2011

Arthritis Awareness Month observed

COLUMBIA – May has been proclaimed by Governor Nikki Haley as Arthritis Awareness Month in South Carolina to encourage people to learn more about this nation’s most common cause of disability, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control reported today.

“Statistics from the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show arthritis affects an estimated 50 million adults and limiting activity for more than 21 million of those who have the disease,” according to Cora Plass, director of DHEC’s Healthy Aging program. “In South Carolina, an estimated one million adults have some form of arthritis, and nearly half of them have limited activity due to arthritis.”

Plass said being overweight or obese are risk factors for arthritis and contribute to increased symptoms and reduced quality of life among people with arthritis.

“While weight loss can improve arthritis management, the rate of obesity among people with arthritis has increased in South Carolina,” Plass said. “These findings point out the need for effective prevention efforts, such as physical activity and self-management education. With funding from the CDC and support of the Arthritis Foundation, the Lt. Governor's Office on Aging, and other partners, DHEC’s arthritis program offers a variety of proven prevention interventions to address the growing obesity problem and the impact of arthritis.”

Plass said one of the programs during the month’s observance, Physical Activity; the Arthritis Pain Reliever health communications campaign in the North Charleston area, will help motivate people to become more active. Studies show that getting a person’s heart rate up and keeping it up at least 30 minutes a day, even in 10-minute increments, helps reduce pain, fatigue and stiffness from arthritis. Most people who stick with a program of regular physical activity begin to feel better within four to six weeks.

Plass said through partnerships with community and faith-based organizations, DHEC is expanding the menu of evidence-based prevention interventions to help people with arthritis become more active and learn self-management skills. During Arthritis Awareness Month, two new programs are starting.

The Arthritis Foundation’s Walk With Ease program is ideal for anyone who wants to become more active. The program offers walking in a group-based setting or individually, along with health information from a trained coach and motivational tools. Developed by the University of North Carolina, Walk With Ease was shown to reduce the pain and discomfort of arthritis, increase balance and strength, build confidence and improve overall health.

The Arthritis Self-Management Toolkit is a self-study program developed by Stanford University and the University of North Carolina. It provides the building blocks to construct a personal approach to managing arthritis through exercise, pain management and relaxation. The toolkit contains a help book, an exercise CD, and a relaxation CD that can be checked out from DHEC at (803) 898-0760. The program provides similar information as the small-group Arthritis Foundation Self-Help Program and was shown to get comparable results, such as less pain and fatigue, increased levels of physical activity, and increased self-confidence in ability to manage one's health.

Visit DHEC’s arthritis program webpage at or call (803) 898-0760 for more information about arthritis-related programs in South Carolina or to find a location near you.


For more information:
Thom Berry – (803) 898-3885
Email –