Arthritis is Canada’s most common chronic condition, affecting six million Canadians, including 620,000 Albertans. There are more than 100 types of arthritis, with a range of symptoms including pain, joint inflammation and stiffness, and fatigue. There is no cure.
Arthritis is pervasive, affecting all aspects of life. From the simple activities of daily living, such as getting dressed in the morning, or cooking a meal for family, to more complex situations such as navigating work and school, arthritis impacts lives at every turn. People with arthritis are more challenged in their personal relationships, are more likely to be marginalized and develop mental health issues, and often experience other chronic conditions. Arthritis is also a leading cause of disability: osteoarthritis (OA), the most common type of arthritis, is the third most rapidly rising condition associated with disability after diabetes and dementia.
Arthritis Society Canada is a national charity dedicated to extinguishing arthritis. Since 1948, we have been fighting the fire of arthritis with research, advocacy, innovation, information and support. Sparked by the generosity of our donors, we offer information and support resources to people with arthritis and their families, invest in breakthrough research, and advocate to make arthritis a healthcare priority with policy makers – with a strategic focus on bringing the latest innovations in arthritis care, treatments and research to the market.
Helping Albertans Navigate Life with Arthritis:
Navigating life with a painful chronic disease is never easy. Arthritis Society Canada has developed programs for people with arthritis at all life stages to educate and support them on their journey. Our programs delivered patient-centric and timely information, lifestyle and pain management, and treatment resources to 2.1 million Canadians last year, with 82% of program users saying they are empowered to better manage their arthritis. Drawing on the expertise of healthcare professionals and arthritis experts, Arthritis Society Canada delivers current, evidence-based information that empowers people with arthritis of all ages, in all corners of the country. With a digital-first approach, we offer a range of free resources on our website, arthritis.ca, to help people better understand and manage their arthritis.
Investing in Advancements in Arthritis Treatment: Thanks to the support of our generous donors, Arthritis Society Canada is the largest charitable funder of arthritis research in Canada, investing $220 million in research since 1948. In 2020-2021, we invested $3.6 million in arthritis research across Canada, including almost $500,000 in researchers at the University of Calgary and University of Alberta. Some of the research we currently support are:
Another exciting project we’re supporting is UCAN CURE, led by Dr. Susa Benseler at the Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary and Dr. Rae Yeung at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto. UCAN CURE is a transformational research project that aims to develop the first genomics-based, low-cost blood test to rapidly identify the best personalized treatment for each child with arthritis. Led by Canadian researchers and pediatric rheumatologists as part of an international network, UCAN CURE hopes to influence the treatment and healthcare options available to children and their families, allowing them to be involved in the decision-making process best suited to their personal needs. We’re partnering with Genome Canada and other funders to invest $10 million in this project, with Arthritis Society Canada contributing $1 million in funding. This initiative is a game-changer with potential implications for arthritis care that extend beyond children.
Our research investments are making an impact. For example, Dr. Sarah Manske at the University of Calgary is developing techniques to incorporate greater use of imaging tools to detect inflammation in the bones of people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) that is not seen on clinical examination. This will help clinicians determine how RA is progressing, including if people are at risk for further bone damage, and if so, what strategies can help to minimize joint damage. Dr. Manske’s work was highlighted as one of our Top 10 Research Advances of 2020.
Giving Albertans with Arthritis a Voice: Arthritis is a complex disease with potentially life-altering complications that affects people of all ages. For too long, the seriousness of the disease has been dismissed. As the leading voice for people with arthritis in Canada, the Arthritis Society fights misconceptions about the disease through awareness campaigns and advocates to ensure people with arthritis have access to timely and effective care.
At the beginning of the pandemic, over 5,600 Canadians – more than 500 from Alberta – participated in an urgent appeal to government and political officials focusing on key issues for arthritis patients, including access to medications and reducing wait times for joint replacement surgeries. Long wait times have been an issue for years and timelines have only worsened because of the pandemic.
CBC Radio One Calgary host Doug Dirks knows firsthand the challenges of a long wait for joint replacement surgery. Read Doug’s story.
Resources and Support: Arthritis Society Canada provides dozens of guides, tools and other resources for people with arthritis at life stages on our website, arthritis.ca. Recent additions include:
Our website also houses flourish, a lifestyle hub that provides health and wellness advice, self-management tips, and inspirational stories to help people with arthritis live their fullest lives.
Information and support are also delivered through our monthly webinar series, Arthritis Talks, instructional and informational videos, virtual workshops, online courses and more. This webinar series brings together expert speakers who present timely, relevant and practical solutions and research updates directly to people living with arthritis. Participants can ask questions and chat with other viewers who share their lived experience of arthritis. Topics have included the impact of COVID-19 on arthritis patients, pain management, research innovations, medical cannabis, physical activity, and inflammatory arthritis management strategies. The webinars are recorded and posted to our website for those unable to participate. In 2020-2021, Arthritis Talks reached 4,100 Albertans from more than 140 cities and towns and close to 50,000 Canadians nationwide.
For those seeking a more personal connection, we offer the Arthritis Line, a national, toll-free information and support line operated by Arthritis Society staff and volunteers who answer questions about arthritis, access to care, programs, services, and community and online resources. More than 150 Albertans sought support through the Arthritis Line in 2020-2021.
The Arthritis Society also runs the only summer camp program in Canada tailored to children and youth living with arthritis. Our six camps offer a safe environment where kids can build connections and relationships with others with similar experiences and learn skills to help manage their arthritis. In 2019, 390 campers – 56 from Alberta – attended Arthritis Society summer camps. We adapted our camp to a virtual format in 2020 due to COVID-19, launching Camp Sunrise, which brought together 154 campers – 16 from Alberta – for fun online activities and challenges over two weeks. Club Sunrise, a year-round virtual club for children and youth, was introduced in fall 2020. Fifty-eight kids – 10 from Alberta – participated in fun activities including scavenger hunts, dance parties and cooking classes. We’re hopeful in-person camps can resume in 2022.
Research: The investments we make in scientific research and discovery seek to spark new ideas and careers in arthritis research, supporting talented investigators and trainees seeking to understand the causes of arthritis and develop innovative solutions to improve quality of life for those living with arthritis, on the road to finding a cure.
We fund research focused on five areas of strategic priority: arthritis pain, osteoarthritis, inflammatory arthritis, childhood arthritis, and arthritis and work. Our research grants include:
Innovation Grants for projects based on high risk/high reward ideas (maximum $50,000/year for up to two years). This is a new area of grant funding for Arthritis Society Canada which will support the development and testing of transformative concepts and approaches to address critical barriers to progress in arthritis research, challenge our understanding of arthritis and its management, and generate novel approaches to delivering the best care and finding a cure
Strategic Operating Grants for innovative projects led by established investigators ($100,000/year for up to three years)
Stars Career Development Awards for early-career investigators ($125,000/year or up to three years. Funds must be matched for an additional three years by the investigator’s host institution)
Capacity building awards for doctoral and postdoctoral students: Training Postdoctoral Fellowship ($40,000-$50,000/year for up to three years) and Training Graduate PhD Salary Awards ($21,000/year for up to three years)
Advocacy: One of our advocacy priorities is reducing wait times for joint replacement surgeries. According to the 2020 Canadian Institute for Health Information wait times data, in Alberta, only 39% of knee replacements and 49% of hip replacements were completed within the medically recommended target of six months. Osteoarthritis is the main health condition driving these surgeries.
While we successfully advocated to five provincial governments in 2020-2021 to commit additional funding to reduce surgical wait times, the Alberta government has not yet heralded our call – despite a 2021 Angus Reid survey indicating that 77% of Albertans agree governments should make joint replacement surgeries a priority. We continue to advocate for new policies, programs and funding to ensure all Canadians have accelerated access to the joint replacement surgeries they need and deserve.
To support our efforts, Arthritis Society Canada convened a pan-Canadian working group to look at the issue and provide concrete recommendations. In June 2021, we released our report, The Wait: Addressing Canada’s Critical Backlog of Hip and Knee Replacement Surgeries, which calls for a Canadian Task Force to immediately address the wait times issue and offers five key solutions for the Task Force to consider.
Your support is critical to improving the lives of the six million Canadians living with arthritis today and creating a brighter future for the three million more at risk of developing arthritis. Unlike some charities, Arthritis Society Canada does not receive significant government funding. We rely on the generosity of individuals and organizations across Canada to offer resources and support, fund promising homegrown research and innovation, and advocate for lasting change to improve health outcomes for people with arthritis.
Some of our current funding priorities include:
Fight the fire of arthritis with the fire of philanthropy. Show your support for people with arthritis by:
Every contribution matters. Thank you for helping us fight the fire of arthritis.