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Better arthritis care means big savings: peak body

Better care and support for people with arthritis could save the health system $170 million a year by reducing the need for joint replacement surgery.

That’s one of the key points raised by Arthritis Australia following the release of their report, Counting the cost: the current and future burden of arthritis.

Policy and government relations manager at Arthritis Australia Franca Marine said: “We spend more on joint replacements than on any other hospital procedures, yet little priority is given to programs that can prevent or delay these expensive surgeries.”

“Our report finds that supporting better non-surgical management for people with knee osteoarthritis could save the health system more than $170 million in reduced knee replacements alone,” Marine said. “This could be achieved with an investment of as little as $11 million a year.”

Arthritis Australia said nearly 4 million Australians currently live with arthritis and added that number will rise to 5.4 million by 2030.

Marine said: “Arthritis already costs the health system $5.5 billion and this will grow to $7.6 billion by 2030 unless more is done to prevent and better manage the condition.”

The report also highlighted the economic impact of arthritis in terms of people’s work capacity.

Report co-author professor Deborah Schofield, a health economist from the University of Sydney, said the modelling behind the Counting the Cost report found that 52,000 people aged 15-64 years are unable to work due to their arthritis.

“This leads to a loss of personal income of $955 a week, or $1.8 billion a year nationally rising to $2.6 billion by 2030,” Schofield said. “The cost to the government of early retirement due to arthritis is over $1.1 billion a year in extra welfare payments and lost taxation revenue. Lost GDP due to arthritis-related early retirement was $7.2 billion in 2015 and this will reach $9.4 billion a year by 2030.”

As part of its pre-election wishlist, Arthritis Australia is urging all political parties to commit to:

  • $11m to support non-surgical management for people with osteoarthritis
  • $3m for specialist nurses to support people with auto-immune and inflammatory forms of arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile arthritis
  • $10m a year to boost research funding, including $1m for research into juvenile arthritis, which currently receives very little research funding.
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