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New priority for arthritis

After nearly 40 years of campaigning by Shenton Park group Arthritis and Osteoporosis WA, a professorship dedicated to arthritis has been established at the University of WA.

Arthritic, systemic autoimmune and other bone and joint conditions cost Australia an estimated $24billion a year in medical care and lost productivity. Yet despite affecting an estimated one in 10 Australians, these conditions are still regarded as the poor relations of chronic disease.

It’s a situation Dutch rheumatology expert Johannes “Hans” Nossent hopes to turn around after being appointed inaugural chair of rheumatology and musculoskeletal medicine at UWA. Professor Nossent will train medical students, undertake clinical sessions at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital (SCGH) and spearhead research into rheumatic and musculoskeletal conditions in a five year $2.7million collaboration between UWA, SCGH and Arthritis and Osteoporosis WA.

Winthrop Professor Nossent said there was a remarkable and regret-table lack of services for patients with rheumatic conditions. He agreed the diseases were often misunderstood, with people in both the medical profession and the community dismissing them as the aches and pains of old age and something people simply had to put up with.

“Many do not appreciate that these are often very severe diseases that affect a wide range of people, including children and people in their 20s, 30s, 40s,” Professor Nossent said. “These are chronic conditions they will have to deal with for the rest of their lives, because we have no cure yet.”

Arthritis and Osteoporosis WA will contribute $962,269 to the five-year partnership, with SCGH contributing $996,100, and $747,889 from UWA.

Arthritis and Osteoporosis WA executive director Ric Forlano said the professorship would shine a much-needed spotlight on a suite of conditions which had been overlooked for too long.


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