J-School to Join Fight Against Arthritis

Columbia, Mo. (May 7, 2004) — The Missouri School of Journalism is launching a campaign to improve and expand coverage on arthritis among local and national media. The initiative is one of several research projects under way at MARRTC (Missouri Arthritis Rehabilitation Research and Training Center), the only federally funded arthritis center of its kind in the United States.

Every American on average will spend some 15 years of his or her life with some form of disability, notes Jerry Parker, Ph.D., director of MARRTC and Associate Chief of Staff for Research and Development at Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans Hospital.

About 70 million Americans live with some form of arthritis disability, twice the number of those suffering from cancer and heart disease combined.

“Journalists have the opportunity to pursue stories that go beyond the immediate, late-breaking news and that are aimed at elevating the public debate of important issues that otherwise may remain obscure,” Parker says.

The campaign will begin with the launch of a new website this summer that will offer the latest information on arthritis research and disability legislation, as well as feature news articles, advice, discussion forums, local, regional and national statistics and links to searchable databases.

The goal of the campaign will be not only to engender more in-depth discussion about arthritis and arthritis disability, but also to bring perspective and context to news coverage of a disease that is anything but simple.

The Missouri School of Journalism, with its extensive expertise and its solid research infrastructure should be the perfect fit. Home to the National Newspaper Association (NNA), the Investigative Reporters and Editors organization (IRE), the School is strategically positioned to reach audiences and media alike. IRE, a professional association, conducts workshops for thousands of journalists each year on almost every beat, including health care. NNA’s 2,500 member newspapers have combined readership of about 120 million people.

MARRTC is also part of the University of Missouri Health Communication Research Center (HCRC), whose mission is to foster research to improve communication between the healthcare community and the public.

Among the general population arthritis remains a largely misunderstood disease, fraught with misconceptions and myths. Here are some of the facts:

  • Contrary to popular belief, arthritis is not an old person’s disease. One out of five arthritis people with arthritis is under the age of 44.
  • There are more than 100 forms of arthritis, each with its own set of symptoms and complications.
  • Arthritis costs the nation’s economy more than $125 billion per year, a number that is likely to go up as baby-boomers age.
  • People with disabilities are twice as likely as other Americans to live in poverty.
  • People with disabilities are twice as likely to drop out of high school as other Americans.
  • Only one-third of people with disabilities are employed, compared to 81 percent employment rate for other Americans.


Established in 1971 at the MU Arthritis Center, the Missouri Arthritis Research Rehabilitation and Training Center (MARRTC) is the only federally funded arthritis rehabilitation research and training center in the country. As part of the University of Missouri Health Communication Research Center, MARRTC’s mission is to become a national leader in the areas of disability management, improve the quality of life and promote independent living among people who have arthritis and arthritic conditions.

Updated: March 16, 2020

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