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Leading Arthritis Advocacy Groups Urge Policymakers to Address Nation’s Pediatric Arthritis Specialist Shortage

American College of Rheumatology, Arthritis Foundation and National Psoriasis Foundation Hold Policy Briefing on Specialist Shortage and its Impact on Kids, Cost and Care

WASHINGTON, DC – Three of the nation’s largest arthritis advocacy organizations – the American College of Rheumatology, Arthritis Foundation, and National Psoriasis Foundation – today convened a policy briefing on Capitol Hill to discuss the nation’s shortage of pediatric arthritis specialists and its impact on children and the U.S. healthcare system.

The briefing, “America’s Pediatric Specialist Shortage: What it Means for Kids, Cost and Care,” featured a panel of patients, rheumatologists and policy experts who discussed the scope and impact of the specialist shortage, as well as proposed legislation that would help expand access to specialized pediatric arthritis care in rural and other underserved communities across the nation.

More than 300,000 U.S. children are living with doctor-diagnosed juvenile arthritis, yet there are currently fewer than 350 board-certified, practicing pediatric rheumatologists in the United States, with many of these specialists clustered in and around large cities. Currently, at least nine states do not have a single, board-certified, practicing pediatric rheumatologist. Panelists warned the shortage is creating access challenges that can delay necessary care and lead to significant, long-term complications.

“Juvenile arthritis is a complex condition that can be difficult to diagnose and even more challenging to treat, requiring skilled care and training from medical professionals who have specialized in the field,” said Dr. William Harvey, a practicing rheumatologist and Chair of the Government Affairs Committee for the American College of Rheumatology. “Early, interventional care provided by trained specialists is absolutely essential to ensure timely and accurate diagnosis of juvenile arthritis and to help children and their families manage pain, treat symptoms, and avoid long-term disability.”

Panelists included two juvenile arthritis patients - Andrew Moy and Joy Ross - who shared their experiences living with juvenile arthritis and the access challenges they faced.

“As a young child suffering from juvenile psoriatic arthritis, I was put on a six-month waiting list to see a pediatric rheumatologist and a year to receive the right medications and therapy,” stated Andrew Moy, a youth ambassador with the National Psoriasis Foundation. “After living so long with uncontrolled symptoms, joint damage has already occurred.”

“Research has shown that our nation’s lack of providers means that only one-quarter of children with arthritis - Including, but not limited to psoriatic arthritis - will be able to see a pediatric rheumatologist,” said Randy Beranek, President and CEO of the National Psoriasis Foundation.

Juvenile arthritis is responsible for approximately 827,000 doctor visits each year, including an average of 83,000 emergency room visits, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Panelists also discussed potential policy solutions, including H.R. 1859, the Ensuring Children’s Access to Specialty Care Act, which would make pediatric rheumatologists eligible for the National Health Service Corps (NHSC). The NHSC provides scholarship and loan repayment to health care providers in exchange for service in rural and underserved areas. The bipartisan bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives would help ensure children in areas with no pediatric rheumatologists have access to providers best suited to meet their needs.

“Access to optimal care and game-changing medical treatment should be available to every single child, including those with juvenile arthritis. I hope that this briefing serves as the first step in addressing a number of barriers to care that families who have a child with juvenile arthritis currently experience, especially as it relates to a shortage of board certified pediatric rheumatologists,” explained Ann Palmer, President and CEO of the Arthritis Foundation.

Erin Schmidt
703-548-0019

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About the American College of Rheumatology
The American College of Rheumatology is an international medical society representing more than 9,400 rheumatologists and rheumatology health professionals with a mission to Advance Rheumatology! In doing so, the ACR offers education, research, advocacy and practice management support to help its members continue their innovative work and provide quality patient care. Rheumatologists are experts in the diagnosis, management, and treatment of more than 100 different types of arthritis and rheumatic diseases.

About Arthritis Foundation
The Arthritis Foundation is the Champion of Yes. Leading the fight for the arthritis community, the Foundation helps conquer everyday battles through life-changing information and resources, access to optimal care, advancements in science and community connections. The Arthritis Foundation’s goal is to chart a winning course, guiding families in developing personalized plans for living a full life – and making each day another stride towards a cure. The Foundation also publishes Arthritis Today, the award-winning magazine that reaches 4 million readers per issue.

About the National Psoriasis Foundation
The National Psoriasis Foundation is the world’s largest nonprofit organization serving people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. Our mission is to find a cure for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis and to eliminate their devastating effects through research, advocacy and education. For more information, call the Foundation, headquartered in Portland, Ore., at 800-723-9166, or visit www.psoriasis.org.

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