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A new day has dawned at the Arthritis Foundation. As we continue to focus on improving the lives of people with arthritis and those who are at risk, we now have a bold new direction and revitalized strategic plan in place. Having just completed my first year as president/CEO of the Arthritis Foundation, I am excited about the path the Foundation is taking and the opportunities that lie before us. I value the important partnership we have with the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) and the Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals (ARHP), a division of the College, in helping people with arthritis, and recognize how important it is for us to work together to maximize our impact on the arthritis community.

Upon review and evaluation of the Arthritis Foundation's strategic plan, we concluded that to continue moving towards our mission, we needed to implement some key strategic shifts. These shifts blanket all areas of focus for the Arthritis Foundation, including revenue diversification, creating measurable outcomes, programs and services, and technology, while maintaining our commitment to research. These changes will not only enable us to capitalize on marketplace trends to better serve people with arthritis, but they also provide the perfect opportunity to strengthen our relationship with the ACR and ARHP.

We are all concerned with the care of people with arthritis today and tomorrow; focusing on what we can do to alleviate pain and disability today, while working toward the hope of what new discoveries will bring for tomorrow. With research and education as primary functions of our organization, it is essential for us to join with rheumatologists and others interested in arthritis to develop programs that best help patients and advance our understanding and treatment of these disorders.

ACR's and ARHP's valued support of the Foundation's research program allows us to continue recruiting more researchers and professionals to the field—fulfilling a shared goal of a strong workforce of researchers and healthcare professionals to serve the arthritis population. Members of the ACR and ARHP are crucial to providing strategic direction and peer review for foundation research programs. The Arthritis Foundation is proud to play an important role in training and career development, and providing research funding for many members of the ACR and ARHP. In 2001, the Arthritis Foundation's Research Program awarded nearly $9 million to 100 active ACR and ARHP members. These are extremely worthwhile initiatives, and I am looking forward to expanding our partnership to encompass even greater possibilities and outcomes.

Rheumatologists and other health professionals are most often the first point of contact for patients searching for resources to learn about their arthritis. Knowing this, the Arthritis Foundation sees the ACR/ARHP community as an essential partner in meeting our mission. The delivery of unbiased, authoritative information is a critical step in the management of a chronic disease such as arthritis. From our many books and brochures to our magazine and our web site, the Arthritis Foundation has an array of vehicles through which it disseminates educational information to people with arthritis.

Foundation materials are written to empower individuals to understand more about arthritis, and as a result, participate better in the management of their disease. We want our educational materials to be of assistance to rheumatologists and others caring for patients with arthritis. The continued collaboration and interactions of the Arthritis Foundation and health care providers will ensure that persons with arthritis receive unbiased, medically sound information in order to take action and to have a better quality of life.

Our partnership cannot stop there. As the Foundation enhances its current self-management and exercise programs and services and develops new ones, ACR members are critical partners in educating the patient on options available and making certain these programs are used appropriately. In addition, for the Arthritis Foundation to be successful, we need the expertise of rheumatologists and healthcare professionals in order to develop solid, evidence-based programs. ACR and ARHP members can play a key role in helping us with the development, implementation and evaluation of innovative programs. Through the Foundation's commitment to direct delivery of market-driven programs, members of the ACR and ARHP are needed to guide in the formulation of such programs and their utilization in local communities as well as assist in determining ways to benchmark successful programs.

In addition to our work of providing resources to investigators to pursue a cure for the various forms of arthritis and related diseases, we are committed to working together with the ACR to affect legislation and funding decisions—policies and laws that can help all people with musculoskeletal diseases. Together, our voice is strong, and our continued collaboration ensures a more powerful message. Your expert knowledge as ACR/ARHP members and our combined efforts to inform others about the seriousness and impact of arthritis enable us to influence civic and community leaders to support the larger cause. Together, combined efforts are already proving successful in increasing funding for arthritis research at the National Institutes for Health and in public health initiatives with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, building support for proposals to ensure patients have access to specialty care. Additionally, we are succeeding with events such as our Congressional Osteoarthritis Screening event on Capitol Hill in May, and our work together to launch the first Congressional Arthritis Caucus, which will serve as a platform to host events and mobilize support on Capitol Hill. There are many other advocacy issues at the federal and state level that demand our attention. What we choose to tackle next is an important challenge, and no doubt will be an exciting time for all.

These are just a few of the specific ways that partnering together can make a difference in improving people's lives. Although the Arthritis Foundation and the ACR/ARHP do have different internal missions, we have the same ultimate goal of improving the lives of people with arthritis. Through our combined strength, we are making a difference. I look forward to a bright future for our partnership!

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