Under TARC’s leadership, the Alliance has doubled its membership and initiated a number of innovative programs and resources for patients and clinicians.

Leigh Callahan, PhD (left); Dianne Rosenbluth (right)

It has been nearly two years since the Thurston Arthritis Research Center (TARC) assumed management of the Osteoarthritis Action Alliance (OAAA) coalition, which was formed by the Arthritis Foundation and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2011.

Under the direction of Dr. Leigh Callahan, the OAAA has more than doubled its membership, restructured to facilitate its work as a national coalition, elected additional leaders for key positions, and set a course for raising osteoarthritis (OA) as a national health priority.

As a coalition of public health leaders and interested organizations, the OAAA aims to increase awareness, education, and resources for OA among policymakers at all levels, healthcare providers and systems, communities and individuals.

To date, the OAAA has made significant progress on several key fronts:

* Nationally recognized UNC and professional basketball legend Lennie Rosenbluth, and his wife, Dianne, were recently named Honorary Co-Chairs of the OAAA. They will be joining the OAAA in a number of efforts to raise awareness for osteoarthritis. Their efforts will also help illustrate the innovative research and ongoing outreach being conducted at the Thurston Arthritis Research Center.

* Through its policy and advocacy group, the OAAA is educating members of Congress, including the Arthritis Caucus and appropriations committees, about the importance of arthritis-related research and programming.

* The OAAA awarded three small grants to community-based organizations in order to advance objectives outlined in the 2011 report, Environmental and Policy Strategies to Increase Physical Activity Among Adults With Arthritis and its accompanying online Implementation Guide. Each funded project focuses on introducing physical activity programs into communities and developing local partnerships that will broaden the program’s reach and promote long-term sustainability. TARC’s Yvonne Golightly, PhD, serves as the grants manager for this program.

* TARC physician, Amanda Nelson, MD, started a Chapel Hill chapter of the national Walk With A Doc program. At 11:00 a.m. on the third Saturday of each month, UNC physicians, staff, family and friends, and members of the community meet at the UNC Wellness Center at Meadowmont in Chapel Hill to walk, talk, and take an active role in managing their health. Dr. Nelson is the first rheumatologist in the US to start a walking chapter within this organization, which is well represented by the cardiovascular community. She is leading OAAA efforts to provide educational information on arthritis and musculoskeletal health for the Walk With A Doc resource library, and to encourage other rheumatology groups around the country to bring this program into their communities.

* Many member organizations – including TARC and collaborating organizations at UNC – are providing valuable resources and networking opportunities. TARC clinicians and researchers, including Drs. Nelson, Golightly and Kelli Allen, lend their unique perspectives as work group leaders and committee members to find ways to educate healthcare providers and systems and encourage them to proactively address OA during doctors’ visits.

* Each month, the OAAA’s Lunch and Learn series invites experts throughout the US to host free, live webinars that are open to the public. Join us and learn more about arthritis! Registration and archives are located on the OAAA website.

Through an active social media presence on twitter (@oaactionallianc) and Facebook, quarterly newsletters, biweekly digests, and the resources and programs listed above, the OAAA is continually expanding its reach to key audiences.

Managing chronic pain and other symptoms associated with OA is a complex challenge that is best approached through the use of multiple educational and therapeutic strategies. Through its ambitious and wide-reaching strategic goals and implementation plans, the OAAA’s dedicated volunteers and staff are working diligently to help those who live with the burden of OA.