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Australia is lagging behind the rest of the world in the treatment of Juvenile Arthritis (JA), according to research used to fuel a new campaign that launched today at Parliament House in Canberra.

The “Stop Pain and Disability in Kids with Arthritis” campaign, which is run by Juvenile Arthritis Foundation Australia (JAFA), aims to address shortfalls in the way that the Australian healthcare system manages JA, which affects around 6,000 children across the country.

The group has three aims for the campaign: “The right services in the right place; the right drugs at the right time; and research for better treatments, prevention and cure,” pointing to research led by paediatric rheumatologist and Chair of the Australian Paediatric Rheumatology Group, Professor Davinder Singh-Grewal as evidence of the need for change.

According to Professor Singh-Grewal, delays in diagnosis can be especially consequential for a patient’s health.

“Despite being one of the most common chronic childhood diseases, for some children with juvenile arthritis, it can take six to 12 months or more from the onset of symptoms to diagnosis,” Professor Singh-Grewal said.

“Sadly, I’ve seen many children with permanent joint deformities, and loss of vision caused by inflammatory eye disease by the time they were referred to me.”

Furthermore, with 80% of JA patients experiencing pain on a daily basis, it is not uncommon to see some patients carry their symptoms with them into adulthood, as Melbourne-based paediatric rheumatologist, Associate Professor Jane Munro notes.

“In 50% of affected children, the pain and the arthritis continue into adulthood accounting for thousands of young adults having a disability,” Associate Professor Munro said.

The JAFA, an organisation founded by Professors Ruth and Stephen Colagiuri, calls “for earlier diagnosis and better care and support services to improve quality of life and prevent disability,” in JA patients, according to a press release publicising the campaign.

Thursday morning’s campaign launch will take place at an event held by the Parliamentary Friends of Child and Adolescent Health, and will be chaired by MPs and Doctors Mike Freelander (Labor) and Katie Allen (Liberal).

More information on the JAFA and its aims can be found at its website.