According to government statistics, one out of every 1,000 Canadians has juvenile idiopathic arthritis. It is one of the most common childhood diseases.
In a city the size of Prince George, that could mean between 70 and 80 kids under the age of 16 have a disease more commonly associated with the older segment of society.
Seven-year-old Genevieve Robert is one of those kids. She was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis when she was only 18 months old, and today at 1 p.m. at Studio 2880 (2880 15th Ave.) she'll talk about what it's like to live with her affliction.
"We tend to forget arthritis is also a juvenile disease," said Margaret Jackson, an arthritis sufferer and co-ordinator of the inaugural fundraising walk on Saturday, June 8 at Fort George Park. "They call it idiopathic because they don't know why it starts or how it got there. For children to have it for no reason, it's not OK."
Some of the proceeds of the arthritis walk will pay $1,500 to sponsor a kid to attend Camp Capilano in North Vancouver, a 3 1/2-day retreat for children and adolescents in B.C. with pediatric rheumatic diseases.
Arthritis is a joint disorder of unknown cause, which stems from an overactive immune system, causing inflammation of the joints that can lead to intense pain and the eventual breakdown of those joints. Early diagnosis is key in improving long-term prognosis. Among the early warning signs are chronic anemia, skin rashes, sore or stiff neck, and swollen joints.
The most common form of the disease -- osteoarthritis -- affects nearly one in 10 Canadians. That's 3.25 million people in Canada and 600,000 in B.C. It is the result of aging and the cumulative effects of stress and environmental factors such as cold weather on joints.
The 100 per cent donor-funded Arthritis Society's Prince George community group meets monthly at Studio 2880 to offer counselling and support to people who have arthritis and their families. The group meets for monthly educational sessions at Studio 2880, which attracts guest speakers to discuss pharmacology, physiotherapy, tai-chi, reflexology, acupuncture, and other disease management techniques.
Jackson teaches a six-week arthritis self-management program to help people make adaptations and adjustments to their daily routines which improve their quality of life. They go out on walks together or utilize the city's two public pools for group exercise to get their joints moving in warm water. Jackson says the walk will raise awareness of the group's activities and it will also highlight the need for the medical profession to address staffing shortages.
"We have no resident rheumatologist in town and for us older people we understand we have to wait to see the doctors who come up from Vancouver or we have to go to Vancouver," said Jackson.
"Kamloops has two rheumatologists and Kelowna even has an arthritis office. We have nothing here. We need help. The doctors can do so much, but when we're home we have to know how to take care of ourselves."
For more information go to arthritis.ca.