Over seven million Americans are living with painful, debilitating, and costly rheumatic diseases. These diseases can make even the simplest tasks — such as eating, brushing your teeth and driving a car — impossible. The first weeks and months following the onset of rheumatic disease symptoms are known as the "window of opportunity," and it is crucial that patients get appropriate treatment in that time period to avoid lasting complications.
Appropriate treatment for these complex diseases should be administered by a rheumatologist – the only specialist specifically trained in the diagnosis and treatment of rheumatic diseases. Unlike any other health care providers, rheumatologists are equipped with the tools to detect and treat rheumatic diseases. Rheumatologists' training and practice equips them to diagnose patients quickly and maximize the "window of opportunity" – dramatically improving a patient's prognosis.
In September, 2011, the American College of Rheumatology launched the Simple Tasks campaign to educate lawmakers, administration officials, think tanks, advocacy groups, physicians and physician groups on the importance of rheumatology as well as to increase the understanding of the work of rheumatologists and lay a foundation of awareness that creates support for more favorable public policy.
Appropriate and timely referrals, legislation that ensures access to rheumatologists, supporting research and initiatives to grow the workforce, and understanding the importance of the practice of rheumatology are all crucial to ensuring that more people with rheumatic diseases are treated within the "window of opportunity." However, many of the influential people and groups responsible for making significant decisions about these health care issues are not equipped with enough information about rheumatic diseases and rheumatologists to make decisions that positively impact the rheumatology community.
By increasing the visibility of rheumatic diseases and of the specialists who treat them, it is the ACR's hope that these influential people and groups will recognize the value of rheumatology, understand the issues affecting this community, and make decisions that support rheumatology and the patients served by the rheumatology health care team.
Join the American College of Rheumatology and over seven million Americans in fighting the devastating effects of rheumatic diseases. Visit the Take Action section of the website to find your window of opportunity to help.