Within the United States, July 4 is closely associated with patriotism, fighting for autonomy and an almost ethereal sensation of unity followed by a collective sense of pride. In a larger sense, this month is significant in that it is one of the primary months in which the nation embraces the collective over the individualistic.
In a similar manner as our beloved country, a lesser known population of individuals is fighting for freedom from a heinous disease known as juvenile arthritis. These diseases impact approximately 300,000 babies and children within the United States.
In order to increase awareness about this disease, National Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month is held in the month of July similar to our young nation.
With this being said, it begs the question, what is juvenile arthritis? According to an article from the Arthritis Foundation, juvenile arthritis is “an umbrella term used to describe the many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions of pediatric rheumatic diseases that can develop in children and teens.”
In other words, juvenile arthritis is a general term that covers a broad spectrum of diseases that elicit similar symptoms within a child. These symptoms include pain, joint swelling, redness and warmth.
The diseases are distinct in that they possess distinguishing characteristics and affect an individual in different ways. Among the various types of juvenile arthritis are fibromyalgia, juvenile lupus, kawasaki disease, and even juvenile scleroderma just to name a few.
In order to understand the gravity of this disease among infants and children, one must understand how rare it is. In terms of the adult population, it is said that approximately 31 million adults sustain osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis.
This figure does not include the other 23 million adults who have other variations of arthritis. Contrarily, in terms of infants and children, juvenile arthritis impacts only 300,000 individuals.
In light of the statistics surrounding childhood and adulthood arthritis, it is apparent that childhood arthritis lays in the shadows of other well-known diseases.
Due to the little-known nature of juvenile arthritis, the Arthritis Foundation has partnered with a series of organizations such as CARRA, PARTNERS, and PCORI in an effort to advance and accelerate the quest for new and better treatments – and ultimately to find a cure.
However, there appears to be one major stumbling block in accessing a cure for the inflicted, medical services. In fact, according to an article from kidsgetarthritistoo.org, there are currently fewer than 250 board-certified, practicing pediatric rheumatologists in the country.
In other words, on a national level there are approximately five practitioners for every state. This does not include factors such as the counties as well as if this figure is equally dispersed.
Additionally, it is said that roughly “90 percent of those are clustered in and around large cities.” In an effort to combat this issue, the Arthritis Foundation is centered on increasing awareness.
If you would like to help the 300,000 infants and children who are suffering from this often debilitating disease, feel free to visit the Arthritis Foundation’s website kidsgetarthritistoo.org. There you will have access to more information and given an opportunity to be an advocate of juvenile arthritis.
So the next time you celebrate our nation’s independence, feel free to tell a friend that this month also marks the courage of 300,000 little ones inflicted with juvenile arthritis.