New research from Alberta demonstrates variation in the geographic prevalence of rheumatoid arthritis in the province. According to the publication in the journal of the American College of Rheumatology which examined 38,350 rheumatoid arthritis cases, the overall prevalence of the disease in Alberta was found to be 11.8 cases for every 1,000 Albertans. But once local geographic areas are considered, the prevalence rate shows variation worth consideration by health resource planners.
Rheumatoid arthritis is most effectively managed with an accurate diagnosis and early treatment before the disease progresses. With most rheumatologists located in urban areas, specialist access in Alberta’s vast rural and remote areas presents an additional challenge to people living with rheumatoid arthritis in these communities. While these challenges are not unique to Alberta, health authorities have identified meeting the health needs of rural communities as a primary goal for the province. According to Alberta Health Services, rural communities account for about 22% of Alberta’s population.
The study highlights that approximately 60% of rheumatoid arthritis cases reside in metro (Calgary and Edmonton) and moderate metro areas. The researchers uncovered much greater variation when looking at the 132 local geographic areas used by health planners to stratify the province when analyzing health outcomes and resource allocation. Rheumatoid arthritis prevalence ranged between 4.7 to 30.6 cases per 1,000 Albertans depending on the local geographic area. There were 10 hotspots (high prevalence surrounded by other high areas) located in the south/north rural and remote areas and 18 cold spots (low prevalence surrounded by other low areas) in metro and moderate metro Calgary. Further details can be found in the report.
Liu, X., Barber, C.E.H., Katz, S., Homik, J., Bertazzon, S., Patel, A.B., Robert, J., Smith, C., Mosher, D. and Marshall, D.A. (2021), Geographic Variation in the Prevalence of Rheumatoid Arthritis in Alberta, Canada. ACR Open Rheumatology, 3: 324-332. https://doi.org/10.1002/acr2.11251.