Outreach workshops benefit arthritis sufferers

More people suffering from arthritis will learn how to live well with the disease thanks to funding that will enable the Arthritis Society to offer outreach services in southern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.

There are more than 100 types of arthritis, and the most common forms are osteoarthritis (a degenerative joint disease) and rheumatoid arthritis (a long-term autoimmune disorder).

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The Arthritis Society has been at the forefront of helping people live well by providing free education and support through the Victoria Arthritis Centre.

But while local sufferers have had easy access to services, those living further afield had to travel to attend the educational programs.

“We practise proactive advocacy for those suffering the devastating effects of arthritis. Thanks to funding by the Victoria Foundation, we can now reach out to people who previously were not able to come to Victoria to take advantage of our programs,” said Patsy Worrall, Arthritis Society community engagement officer for Vancouver Island. “By reaching more people on how to better self-manage their condition, we will now be able to deliver better health outcomes.”

In the capital region, the society offers roughly 70 educational programs and opportunities, including a six-part workshop series, health-fair participation and specialist-led forums.

In the workshops, participants learn tips, tricks and tools for self-management, hone communication skills when consulting with care professionals and discover the community resources available to support them.

“By teaching people to become better self-managers, we instil confidence in them,” said Worrall.

She said the group sessions are also an opportunity to impress upon people that they are not suffering in isolation.

“This is a condition that can steal careers and relationships from sufferers. Giving them an opportunity to meet, interact and build new relationships with others tells them: ‘You’re not in this alone.’ ”

The increase in funding also means developing webinars (seminars delivered over the internet) and presenting workshops in the evening for working people — to reach an even greater population.

“Knowledge is power. Last year, we welcomed more than 2,000 participants at our workshops, delivering information on exercise, medication and nutrition.”

For more information, go to arthritis.ca/bc.

— Pedro Arrais

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