By Kathleen Gallant, MPA
More than 125 million individuals worldwide, including as many as 7.5 million Americans, live with psoriasis—a chronic, inflammatory, painful, and disabling autoimmune disease for which there is limited effective, safe, and affordable treatment options. There is no cure for psoriasis and it can affect anyone, anywhere around the world. Psoriasis knows no boundaries. I worry that too many people suffer needlessly from psoriasis due to incorrect or delayed diagnosis, inadequate treatment options, and insufficient access to care. People with psoriasis also suffer from stigma and a lack of understanding from the general public, who incorrectly fear psoriasis is contagious or “just a skin thing”. Because of this discrimination, people with psoriasis are more likely to suffer anxiety, low self-esteem, and depression.
For these reasons, I joined with millions of people around the world to celebrate World Psoriasis Day on Monday, October 29. Conceived by patients for patients, World Psoriasis Day is a global event that sets out to raise awareness and give voice to the 125 million people worldwide with psoriasis. World Psoriasis Day is an effort to help bring attention to the serious impact of psoriasis and give people with the disease the attention and consideration they deserve. Celebrating World Psoriasis Day helps to raise the profile of a condition that needs to be taken more seriously by national and international authorities. In honor of World Psoriasis Day, the U.S.-based National Psoriasis Foundation – the world’s largest psoriasis patient advocacy organization and charitable funder of psoriatic disease research – and a consortium of psoriasis patient organizations around the world made a commitment to address this serious global health challenge. Together, they engaged in efforts to:
- secure federal funding for public policies and programs to achieve a cure;
- make progress toward better treatments;
- raise awareness; and
- increase understanding about psoriasis.
The prevalence of psoriasis and its connection with many life-threating illnesses is a serious global health challenge. My goal is to have the World Health Organization recognize World Psoriasis Day.
- Psoriasis puts people at greater-than-average risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, obesity, and cancer. Studies show that people with severe psoriasis are even more likely to suffer heart attacks and to die four years younger, on average, than those without the disease.
- Psoriasis is a chronic disease that requires timely and appropriate medical care. Yet, treatments to effectively manage this disease and reduce its associated health risks are costly and difficult to obtain for many people. Out-of-pocket costs can be as much as $500 a month.
- Further, the economic consequences of psoriasis, for both individuals and the health care system, are significant. In 2008, the annual cost of psoriasis in the U.S. was estimated at $11.25 billion. On average, people with psoriasis miss up to 26 days of work per year as a result of their illness.
It is time for government agencies around the world to recognize psoriasis for the debilitating disease it is and put it on the healthcare agenda today!
It is my hope that soon, a cure for psoriasis will be discovered. Until then, it is important to raise awareness around the globe and in our own country about the need for further research and a cure for psoriasis. Find out how you can get involved in World Psoriasis Day in the United States by visiting the National Psoriasis Foundation and its World Psoriasis Day website: www.worldofpsoriasis.com. To learn about World Psoriasis Day activities around the globe, visit the International Federation of Psoriasis Associations at www.worldpsoriasisday.com.
Kathleen Gallant, MPA, serves of the Board of Trustees of the National Psoriasis Foundation and is the Secretary of the Executive Committee of the International Federation of Psoriasis Associations (IFPA). Diagnosed with severe psoriasis at age 12 and disabling psoriatic arthritis at age 20, Ms. Gallant is a long-time advocate for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis patients in her hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and with the World Health Organization and the United Nations.