Health and Family Services Cabinet
New Report Reveals Many Kentucky Veterans Suffer from Arthritis
Public Health, Aging and Independent Living Encourage Veterans to Take Advantage of Resources, Classes
This Veteran’s Day the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) is raising awareness about a public health issue affecting a significant number of Kentucky veterans – arthritis.
According to DPH, Kentucky veterans suffer from arthritis at higher rates than non-veterans. Furthermore, Kentucky veterans have the third highest rate of arthritis in the nation, with 38 percent of Kentucky veterans reporting they have arthritis compared to the state’s overall rate of 32 percent, according to recent findings published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Having arthritis can often be viewed as a barrier to being physically active – but being active is a vital part of managing the condition,” said Dustin Falls, coordinator of the DPH arthritis program. “Public Health has programs that teach individuals to go at their own pace and to safely incorporate physical activity into their lives. Not only is this key to feeling better and managing the condition – it can help prevent further injuries, such as falls, which are prevalent among individuals with arthritis. We strongly encourage individuals affected by arthritis, particularly our veterans, to take advantage of these programs.”
DPH’s Arthritis Program and the Department for Aging and Independent Living (DAIL) recommend three programs, Walk With Ease, the Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program and the Stanford Chronic Disease Self-Management Program, to help people with arthritis become more active.
“The burden of arthritis on the commonwealth is tremendous in terms of the number of people who suffer with the condition, and the resulting loss of work productivity and medical costs,” said Stephanie Mayfield, M.D., DPH commissioner. “With better disease management, we can reverse these trends.”
In addition to pain and discomfort, loss of productivity and work absenteeism, arthritis also increases an individual’s risk of falling.
“Falls are a significant health concern, particularly for the aging population, where we see individuals dramatically and often irrevocably impacted by these injuries,” said DAIL Commissioner Deborah Anderson. “By taking advantage of one of the recommended physical activity programs – which are all easy to follow and encourage participants to go at their own pace – anyone suffering from arthritis can improve their condition, increase their strength and flexibility and lessen the likelihood of falls or physical injury.”
According to data from the 2013 Kentucky Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey, arthritis is a common health problem in Kentucky where 32 percent of adults -- or approximately 1.1 million people--have been diagnosed with the condition. Kentucky ranks third highest in the nation for arthritis prevalence.
Arthritis is not confined to older adults in Kentucky. In fact, two-thirds of Kentuckians with arthritis are under the age of 64.
“Arthritis is a serious public health concern and it is tremendously distressing that so many of our veterans suffer from the condition,” said Falls. “By following our recommended programs, the impact of arthritis can be lessened and individuals can lead more productive lives with less pain.”
Individuals with arthritis are strongly encouraged to learn more about programs available to decrease the impact of arthritis. Programs are offered at most Senior Centers and several Local Health Departments. To find a program near you, call 1-800-633-8100.
A closer look at the programs
• Walk With Ease is being offered to Kentucky Employee Health Plan members and to other Kentuckians at no cost thanks to a grant from the CDC. Online registration is available at http://chfs.ky.gov/WWE. Walk With Ease is a guided course that assists individuals in safely making physical activity a part of everyday life. The program emphasizes support, information and tools to help individuals meet their physical activity goals. The program is designed for people with arthritis and other chronic conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.
• The Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program is a low-impact physical activity program proven to reduce pain and decrease stiffness. The routines include gentle range-of-motion exercises that are suitable for every fitness level. Classes are led by a certified instructor and exercises can be done either standing or sitting.
• The Stanford Chronic Disease Self-Management Program is a 2.5 hour workshop given once a week, for six weeks, in community settings such as senior centers, churches, libraries and hospitals. People with different chronic health problems attend sessions together. Workshops are facilitated by two trained leaders, one or both of whom are non-health professionals who live with chronic diseases themselves. This workshop teaches people techniques to cope with problems such as frustration, fatigue, and pain; appropriate exercise for maintaining and improving strength, flexibility, and endurance; how to communicate effectively with family, friends, and health professionals; and how to make good nutrition choices.
To read the CDC’s full report on the prevalence of arthritis among U.S. veterans, visit
The Cabinet for Health and Family Services is home to most of the state's human services and health care programs, including Medicaid, the Department for Community Based Services and the Department for Public Health. CHFS is one of the largest agencies in state government, with nearly 8,000 full and part-time employees throughout the Commonwealth focused on improving the lives and health of Kentuckians.