JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - The number of young-to-middle-age Missouri adults whose physical activity has been limited by arthritis jumped 17.7 percent from 1999 to 2001, the state Department of Health and Senior Services said Thursday.
More than 571,000 Missourians between the ages of 18 and 44 were limited by the disease in 2001, up from 485,000 in 1999, according to data from the department's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.
When factoring in the state's population growth over that time, health officials said the actual prevalence of arthritis cases rose 13.2 percent.
By either standard, the new numbers are "alarming," said department director Dick Dunn, who suggested that the state's aging population may also be a factor in the "statistically significant" increases in arthritis cases.
"It has become an important public health issue that's likely to become more significant in future years," Dunn said in an interview. "As the Missouri population ages, arthritis and activity limitation due to joint symptoms will likely become an even larger health problem, including increased Medicare and Medicaid costs."
Overall, 37.2 percent or about 1.6 million Missouri residents have arthritis, which is defined as having chronic joint symptoms. Missouri ranks eighth nationally in the number of reported cases of arthritis.
The state report also found those with arthritis had a higher prevalence of other chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and osteoporosis.
"These findings support the growing consensus that improperly managed arthritis negatively impacts a person's self-sufficiency, contributing to a reduced quality of life," said Joseph Vradenburg, a research analyst with the Department of Health and Senior Services.
Vradenburg, who conducted the state analysis, also found that a vast majority of Missouri adults were not familiar with the department's seven regional arthritis centers.
The centers, which each receive about $50,000 annually from state and federal sources, offers a variety of services and care to prevent and treat arthritis.
Established in 1985, the Missouri Arthritis Program was the first of its kind in the nation, state officials said.
"It is important that persons with arthritis realize there are special places across the state dedicated to improving their quality of life," Dunn said.
The centers are located in Kansas City, St. Louis, Cape Girardeau, Columbia, Kirksville, St. Joseph and Springfield.
On the Net:
Department of Health: http://www.dhss.state.mo.us