The Middle East Arthritis Foundation (formerly Emirates Arthritis Foundation) was launched in April 2006 under the patronage of Her Royal Highness Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, wife of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai. The mandate of the Emirates Arthritis Foundation is to increase awareness and education about arthritis in the region. Its goal is to improve the quality of life for people with arthritis through leadership training, in the prevention, control and cure of the disease.
Arthritis affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide. With the number of people aged over 50 years expected to double by 2020 the burden of musculoskeletal diseases is expected to rise. The most common musculoskeletal conditions with the greatest impact on society are rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, low back pain, osteoporosis, and limb trauma. These conditions are a leading cause of absence from work, reasons for disability pensions, and account for 20% of health utilization costs. The economic burden from direct costs has been calculated to be between 0.7-1.5% of most countries gross domestic product.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic, inflammatory arthritis with a higher likelihood of permanent disability. After 10 years of disease onset 50% of young, working adults will be disabled. It affects 1% of the population. This is an immune system problem and there is no prevention or cure. However with early diagnosis and treatment deformity and disability can be prevented.
There are no UAE specific statistics but numbers from the Gulf region suggest that the prevalence is 20% of the population.
In the UAE studies have shown a delay to diagnosis of 1 year due to lack of awareness. The MEAF has shown leadership in raising awareness of this condition which has resulted in shorter duration of disease.
Currently the MEAF runs events around World Arthritis Day. In addition it currently runs a free yoga program for arthritis and has a free juvenile arthritis support program. Through Facebook, website and radio campaigns it strives to raise awareness of this condition.