Dan writes about the obscurity of Arthritis in popular culture and how this affects prospects for a cure, and tells us about a group working to publicize the plight of those who suffer from the insidious disease.
Number one isn’t always the best.It seems like common sense that if something is classified as number one that it would be a good thing, right? Especially if that thing is number one in more than one category. I mean, who doesn’t want to be given the top spot honors in any given genre? Well, there is a disease that holds the number one spot for a number of categories, none of them good. Can you guess the name of said disease?
It’s Arthritis. Big surprise, I know, but there are facts about the disease that need to be brought to light as often as possible in order to help get the word out about one of the most insidious chronic ailments out there. If we keep silent and let the status quo continue, Arthritis will never get the money, attention, and respect that it deserves.Now, one to the number one hits. You may not know this, but Arthritis is the number one cause of disability in the United States. Over 40 million Americans in total suffer from the disease, and one in three adults can count themselves among that number. That total also includes over a quarter of a million children. Worldwide, the number of Arthritis sufferers climbs to over 350 million. That’s just about the population of the entire U.S. So, as you can see, Arthritis is basically running rampant throughout our modern world. This being the case, you’d think that you would see Arthritis charities and fund raising efforts everywhere you looked, and that disease research would be as well funded as Apple, Inc. No? Well, at the very least, you’d suspect that Arthritis would be in the top 10 profitable charities. Hmm, doesn’t look that way. Top 20 maybe? Nuh-uh, wrong again. In fact, we are number 21 on the list of disease charities, and the Arthritis Foundation is number 94 on the top 100 non-profits list. This puts us below such things as Ducks Unlimited, Bible Translators, and Public Television.This means that charities for cancer, heart disease, birth defects, mental issues, the Special Olympics, diabetes, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, leukemia, lymphoma, cystic fibrosis, breast cancer, Alzheimer’s, lung disease, the Make-a-wish Foundation, translating bibles into Swahili, and helping small feathered animals, all take in more money than the Arthritis Foundation. Seriously, I’m not exaggerating – when I read the list even I was surprised (and disappointed). As far as I am concerned this makes Arthritis the number one most overlooked and underestimated disease in the world.
So, that’s two number one spots that Arthritis occupies -- two top spots that no one should ever want to hold. Arthritis and other autoimmune diseases are almost always swept under the carpet. This happens for a number of reasons but the biggest factor is the fact that Arthritis just isn’t a sexy enough illness to warrant a big movie star as a spokesperson or enough of a money maker to pay for TV advertisements during prime time. Even though more people watching suffer from Arthritis than any other disease out there, no one cares about what they think amounts to “aches and pains.” You’d think that people would want to donate their money to the charity for the disease that they are most likely to get. Then again, common sense seems to be a very rare commodity these days. People would rather buy cheese in a can.
So, here we sit, underappreciated and doomed to obscurity. Anyone who has worked with the Arthritis Foundation or any other charitable organization for Arthritis has probably heard the common phrases uttered by the ignorant. “Oh, Arthritis? My grandma has that.” Or “Arthritis hurts? Just take some aspirin.” Or even “Children don’t get Arthritis. You silly goose!” etc, etc etc. No matter how many times I hear these wonderfully ridiculous statements, it still irks me. It’s hard to blame the individual who uttered the statement, though. In an age where people get their facts from the inside of Snapple bottle caps and get their news from comedians, how can we get mad at them for holding a misconception that seems like common sense? We have to change the entire dynamic.To this end, there is a group out there that is attempting to do just that. They are called the Blue Ribbon Project, and you can reach them on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/TheBlueRibbonProject?fref=ts. This cadre of individuals have made it their mission to raise public awareness about people who live with Arthritis, raise funds for disease research, and most importantly, make the blue colored ribbon the ubiquitous symbol for support of Arthritis.We know that any disease worth its salt has a ribbon color of its own. Red for AIDS, pink for breast Cancer, and purple for pancreatic cancer – all the majors have one. Now, Arthritis has it’s own color ribbon too – blue! It is about time, I say! We need a universal symbol to tell the world we have arrived, and make people aware that this crippling disease isn’t just something old baseball player suffer from. We need to wear the blue ribbon always so that unsuspecting citizens can come up and ask us “hey, what’s that blue ribbon for? Did you win first prize?” To which we can respond, “Yes, in fact, Arthritis is the number one disability in the United States. Spread the word, we need your help!”As you can see, publicizing the plight of those who suffer from Arthritis and other autoimmune diseases is of critical importance. In an age where money is scarce, and the economy is in terrible shape, charitable donations are at an all-time low. When food and gas take precedence, charities are always the first to go, and really, who can blame people? Unfortunately, this means every single charity dollar needs to be fought for, and awareness is a huge part of that fight. So, whenever you can, wear your blue ribbon for Arthritis, and give the disease a number one worth talking about.