SIR presents public survey results at Italian Ministry of Health

A large survey by the Italian Society of Rheumatology reveals the need for more public awareness about rheumatologic diseases in the country.

This summary has been adapted from a press release by the Italian Society of Rheumatology 

A survey conducted by the Italian Society of Rheumatology (SIR) has found a shocking lack of awareness about rheumatological diseases in the general population. The data emerge from a survey conducted on over 3,000 Italian adults, of every age group, from February to April 2018. It  was carried out by rheumatologists at special information points in town squares in 11 Italian cities. As part of the RheumaDays initiative, over 160 medical specialists interfaced with the citizens in what is the first national traveling campaign entirely dedicated to this branch of medicine. During the tour more than 1,800 practical demonstrations of diagnostic tests and free medical consultations were  carried out and more than 10,000 information leaflets were distributed.

The results of the survey and of the entire initiative were presented on May 22nd at the auditorium of the Italian Ministry of Health.

The survey revealed the following: 15% had never heard of rheumatic and autoimmune diseases. Specifically, 24% did not know fibromyalgia, 16% could not explain what gout is, and one in three did not know of the existence of connectitis and psoriatic arthritis. Arthroses and arthritis were known to 65% and 57% of those surveyed, but more than half did not know the much more serious rheumatoid arthritis. This lack of awareness is worrying and suggests that new information campaigns are urgently needed.

The three main objectives of the SIR project were to:

  • promote the primary prevention of disorders through healthy lifestyles
  • promote understanding of the importance of early diagnosis
  • strengthen the importance of the role of the rheumatologist in the country’s health system.

Prof. Luigi di Matteo, Vice President of SIR stated: "Rheumatic diseases represent a great challenge for the entire country. There are more than 150 different disorders that affect a total of over 5 million compatriots. The most frequent ones like arthroses, arthritis and osteoporosis affect one in five Italians. And for the chronic forms, we spend over 4 billion euros each year. Important numbers therefore - however, they do not seem to be getting sufficient attention from the public. Rheumatic diseases do not have the same reputation as cancer, diabetes or hypertension. This is why we decided to meet the citizens with a pilot project that will be expanded in future editions to try to reach an ever greater number of people.”

The SIR survey shows that there is also a lack of awareness about new treatments: 45% of Italians do not know that there are effective medical treatments against rheumatic diseases.

"We have more and more therapeutic weapons at our disposal that are able to control and counter the progression of serious pathologies such as rheumatoid arthritis, spondylitis or extra-articular rheumatism, “ added prof. Mauro Galeazzi, National President of SIR. Among these, there are other biological medicines that have changed the lives of millions of sick people in the world over the last twenty years. They are molecules characterized by a more than satisfactory level of safety and have reduced side effects. In order to have a positive effect on health, they must be administered in the early stages of the disease, preferably within the first year after the onset. But this is not always possible. In the various meetings organized in the city squares we have therefore taught the importance of promptly reporting to a specialist doctor the symptoms of the main disorders of the musculoskeletal system.”

In total, 30 patient associations were involved in the various initiatives in collaboration with SIR.