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SLALA Celebrates Rheumatic Disease Awareness Month

PRESS RELEASE – SEPTEMBER marks observance of the second annual Rheumatic Disease Awareness Month (RDAM) in the United States, sponsored by the American College of Rheumatology (ACR).

RDAM seeks to bring greater awareness to rheumatic diseases such as Lupus, Mixed Connective Tissue Disorder, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Sjogren’s Syndrome, Scleroderma, Gout, Spondyloarthritides, Osteoarthritis, and so many others, while also highlighting the important role that rheumatologists and rheumatology health professionals play in our health care systems.

The theme this year is “Hundreds of Diseases, One Voice”. Here in St. Lucia, and by extension the Caribbean, the voice for rheumatic disease has been the St. Lucia Arthritis and Lupus Association (SLALA) since November 1997 and also the Caribbean Association for Rheumatology (CAR), which is being led by Dr. Amanda King, rheumatologist and co-founder of SLALA.

Dr. King was recently recognised by the American College of Rheumatology, in its journal, ‘Rheumatology’, as ‘a mover and shaker’. CAR’s mission statement is “to form a group of rheumatologists and allied persons committed to the advancement of rheumatology and through collaboration, education, research, and advocacy, improve the care of Caribbean patients with rheumatic disease.”

CAR was formed in 2007 by a group comprised of a pharmaceutical representative and rheumatologists, including Dr. Amanda King. Through CAR, a directory of rheumatologists and other practitioners has been created, so that rheumatology doctors can find each other to confer and refer. This allows patients who move between islands for care to have easier access to rheumatology care via rheumatology referrals.

The 9th annual CAR meeting will actually be held in St. Lucia in May 2018 and we look forward to the continued contribution of the association educating professionals and raising awareness of rheumatic diseases in St. Lucia and the Caribbean.

While in some other Caribbean islands there are well organized “lupus” associations which focus and try to bring awareness to this one disease, SLALA has been holding the mantle for all rheumatic diseases, a monstrous task, really, when you think of all the different rheumatic diseases present. And so, this theme speaks very much to SLALA and our work.

SLALA is under the stewardship of Dr. Cleopatra Altenor, who works assiduously with her executive to fulfil its mission: to provide comfort, motivation and education for people with Arthritis, Lupus and related illnesses such that the quality of their lives may be improved. One major way by which it has tried to do this is by bringing the Stanford University Chronic Disease Self-Management Program to St. Lucia, now fondly known as Viv Byen. This 6-week programme gives hope to people who not only suffer with rheumatic diseases but other chronic illnesses, as well as their relatives, care-givers, friends etc. It helps them to truly say that they can live positively with strength and vitality, even while they manage their chronic rheumatic disease and, hopefully, they can do this in a loud voice to effect positive change across our island.

We continue to invite people with rheumatic disease to join SLALA and help give us an even bigger voice to all these rheumatic diseases. The Viv Byen programme is available to all members and those interested in doing it are encouraged to join as well. There are currently two workshops running at the Bay Medical Centre under the team leadership of Sandy Alcee and ZandraPerreira, as well as Dr. Amanda King and Lucy Gaspard. We expect another programme to start soon.

SLALA also hosts monthly meetings for members every second Thursday of the month at the NIC building. To join SLALA and register for Viv Byen, call the association office at 486-7000 or 459-0092 on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Membership costs only $30 annually and there are many tangible benefits to being a SLALA member. Email contact is slala.slu@gmail.com and we can be found and messaged also on Facebook.

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