Arthritis is the number one cause of disability in America and is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide — so it only makes sense that it has its own holiday.
But World Arthritis Day is not simply a day of celebration: it’s a day to spread awareness. It’s meant to put a face on the hundreds of millions of people who live with one of the more than 100 forms of arthritis, rheumatic, and musculoskeletal diseases that fall under the umbrella term “arthritis.” World Arthritis Day gives patients, doctors, and advocates a chance to educate the public and spread the word about arthritis in all its forms.
What Is World Arthritis Day All About?
World Arthritis Day was established in 1996 by an organization called Arthritis and Rheumatism International. In recent years, it has been championed by EULAR, the European League Against Rheumatism, though the Arthritis Foundation, the American College of Rheumatology, and others also observe the annual event, held every year on October 12.
This year, the EULAR theme is Healthy Aging: Growing Up and Growing Older with a Rheumatic or Musculoskeletal Disease. Their website offers many tools and resources for patients and organizations to get involved with World Arthritis Day and the healthy aging initiative.
The goals of World Arthritis Day and the corresponding year-long campaign include influencing legislation and public policy on arthritis and related diseases, and ensuring that patients and their caregivers know about all of the resources and support available to them.
"It is inspiring to see all the many activities happening worldwide on 12 October! We would like to wish everyone involved a successful day and thank them for helping to improve the quality of life of people with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases," a chairperson of the EULAR Standing Committee of People with Arthritis/Rheumatism in Europe told Healthline.
'Kids Get Arthritis, Too!'
People from all over the world celebrate World Arthritis Day — and not just seniors. In fact, the stereotype that arthritis only happens with age is one that awareness campaigns like this strive to erase.
In the United States alone, nearly 300,000 children and teens live with some form of juvenile arthritis. In fact, arthritis is the sixth most-diagnosed childhood disease, according to the Childhood Arthritis and Rheumatology Research Alliance. Plus, two-thirds of adult arthritis patients in the United States are under the age of 65.
Patients celebrate World Arthritis Day in many ways. Some simply wear blue, the official color for arthritis awareness, and others post arthritis facts on their social media pages. Some take to Capitol Hill or local legislative offices to lobby for changes to healthcare and disability laws.
Occasionally, folks go above and beyond to advocate on this special day. One is dedicated mom Tory Aquino from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Tory’s daughter Mariah, 8 years old and already a Jefferson Award Winner for public service, has a type of juvenile arthritis called polyarticular spondyloarthropathy. This year for World Arthritis Day, Aquino created a “This Old Lady Has Arthritis” online campaign, as well as a letter-writing campaign to ask host Ellen DeGeneres to bring attention to juvenile arthritis on her popular TV show.
Tory said, “World Arthritis Day is important to let people know that it’s not just arthritis. The kind of arthritis that children get is not like ‘grandma’s’ arthritis. It is an immune response in their body that creates debilitating damage to their joints if left untreated. We want the world to know that kids get arthritis, too!”
Aquino is not alone in her efforts to advocate. From turning the Empire State Building blue for arthritis awareness to a wave for arthritis campaign, World Arthritis Day is giving hope to the millions of people worldwide who live with arthritis all 365 days of the year.