Leaders of the Arthritis Foundation and the National Alliance for Hispanic Health teamed up with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last weekin 2011 to present new data on Capitol Hill about rates of arthritis in the Hispanic community.

New numbers show arthritis affects 3.1 million Hispanics in the United States and causes one in five Hispanics to have severe joint pain and functional limitations. The data also shows prevalence, pain and disability rates vary widely among different Hispanic sub groups.

Jane L. Delgado, PhD, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health, says the briefing room on Capitol Hill was filled to capacity with representatives from various congressional offices as this new data was announced. “The important thing is we’re all working together and presenting this data as not just a challenge to people who are in decision-making roles, but also to us, to work together to make people’s lives better,” she explains.

“These findings suggest a critical need to expand the reach of effective strategies aimed at arthritis prevention and management, particularly among underserved populations,” says John H. Klippel, MD, president and CEO of the Arthritis Foundation, who was also in attendance.

This is the first time the Centers for Disease Control, or CDC, has broken down arthritis data among seven different Latino sub groups – Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Mexican Americans, South and Central Americans, Dominicans and Cubans. The new data, which is also published in the February 18 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, shows among those subgroups, Puerto Ricans have the highest rates of arthritis at 21.8 percent. Cuban Americans have the lowest rates at 11.7 percent.  

“Going in we knew prevalence of arthritis was lower among Hispanics compared to blacks and whites. So it was surprising to see a 10 percent range between 12 percent of Cubans and 22 percent of Puerto Ricans,” says Louise Murphy, PhD, an epidemiologist in the arthritis program at the CDC and lead author of the study.

Researchers also discovered that at least 20 percent of people in each of the Hispanic groups struggled with severe joint pain and functional limitations that affect work and other activities. But Mexican-Americans reported the most work limitations: 41.6 percent, compared with 32.9 percent among Central and South Americans. Puerto Ricans reported the most severe joint pain: 44.1 percent, compared with 23.7 percent among Cubans and Cuban Americans.