The Middle East Arthritis Foundation (formerly Emirates Arthritis Foundation) was launched in April 2006. The mandate of the Middle East Arthritis Foundation is to increase awareness and education about arthritis in the region. Its goal is to improve the quality of life for people with arthritis through leadership training, and in the prevention, control and cure of the disease.
Arthritis affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide. With the number of people aged over 50 years expected to double by 2020 the burden of musculoskeletal diseases is expected to rise exponentially. The most common musculoskeletal conditions with the greatest impact on society are rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, low back pain, osteoporosis, and limb trauma. These conditions are the leading causes of absence from work, disability pensions, and account for 20% of health utilization costs. The economic burden from direct costs has been calculated to be between 0.7-1.5% of most countries’ gross domestic product.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic, inflammatory arthritis with a higher likelihood of permanent disability. After 10 years of disease onset 50% of young, working adults will be disabled. This is an immune system problem and there is no prevention or cure. However, with early diagnosis and treatment deformity and disability can be lessened. There are no UAE specific statistics but numbers from the Gulf region suggest that the prevalence is around 20% of the population.
Currently the MEAF runs events such as World Arthritis Day (since 2012) and Walk for Arthritis (Since 2018). Annually it gathers thousands of patients and their families through these and more events. World Arthritis Day is usually packed full of activities and informative sessions involving around 300 patients and their families, whereas Walk for Arthritis has attracted over 1000 participants – making it the largest arthritis gathering in the UAE.
In the UAE studies have shown a 1-year delay to diagnosis, due to lack of awareness. The MEAF has shown leadership in raising awareness of this condition which has resulted in better outcomes for those diagnosed.
The MEAF goals are to increase awareness, contribute to further research and one day be able to beat arthritis. Since 2006 it has worked tirelessly to increase awareness of early diagnosis, leading to better outcomes for patients across the UAE already.