During the current federal budget debates, park and recreation priorities are certainly taking a hit or are being rolled into areas of the budget slated for elimination (See FY18 Budget Request: The Fine Print is Out and It’s Not Good for Parks and Rec). For now, it looks like the funding for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Arthritis Program is safe, but unfortunately we know it’s still not enough to address the needs of the population nationally.
After a significant cut (27%) in FY15, NRPA along with several other advocacy organizations, including the Arthritis Foundation, restored $1.5 million for FY16 for a total of $11 million. Last week, the House Appropriations Committee approved the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education Funding Bill for FY18, which includes $11 million for the CDC’s Arthritis Program.
The CDC utilizes this funding to improve the health and wellbeing of more than 54 million American adults affected by arthritis through research and data collection, and partnership with national and state organizations to expand the dissemination and reach of arthritis-appropriate interventions. These physical activity and self-management education interventions such as Walk With Ease, Active Living Every Day and Fit & Strong! not only enhance the lives of arthritis sufferers, but can reduce annual health care costs by about $1,000 per person. Expanding the reach of the Arthritis Program can have a significant return on investment and greatly improve the lives of people suffering from arthritis.
National organizations, such as NRPA, receive funding from the CDC’s Arthritis Program to implement and support programs at the local level. NRPA has been able to increase the availability and sustainable supports for arthritis-appropriate evidence-based interventions that helps Americans with arthritis increase their levels of physical activity and remain active in their communities.
Over 150 local park and recreation agencies across 45 states have already engaged in arthritis health promotion activities. These local agencies are present in many communities across the country and by offering these programs, positively impact the lives of people with arthritis.
“I love it—and I need it” said a participant who attended a Walk With Ease program offered by the Southgate Recreation and Park District in Sacramento, CA. “I have diabetes and arthritis, and I’m dealing with anxiety and depression. The walking helps me stay active and in shape, but it also clears my mind. Being with other people opens me up and keeps me motivated”.
Another Walk With Ease participant in Philadelphia shared the same sentiment. “I am happy to have participated in the Walk With Ease program as it helped reduce my arthritis pain. I continue to walk for 30 minutes a day and have lost weight — 10 pounds — since beginning the program”.
While the current funding level for the CDC’s Arthritis Program has been sustained for now, we urge Congress to build on their investment in this critical public health issue. The Arthritis Foundation recommends that Congress increases it’s funding to $16 million to begin rebuilding lost funding from the last 3 years and to begin expanding the program. With a $5 million funding increase, the Arthritis Program can expand into an additional 3 states, fund a total of 5 national partners and increase its investment in public health research.
If you agency is currently offering arthritis management programs, invite your members of Congress to visit and see firsthand how the federal funds are being used in local communities.
Kate Sims, MSW is NRPA's Government Affairs Manager.
Lesha Spencer-Brown, MPH, CPH is NRPA's Arthritis Programs Manager.