Research reveals care gap for rheumatoid arthritis patients who smoke or are obese


February 3, 2021 (Vancouver) – Rheumatology health care professionals understand the implications of cigarette smoking and obesity on rheumatoid arthritis but lack the time, training and resources to fully address these issues with patients, according to a new Arthritis Research Canada study.

Researchers used an online survey to collect self-reported data on rheumatology health care professionals’ knowledge, beliefs, self-efficacy, perceived barriers, and practices related to weight management and smoking cessation counselling.

Over 85 per cent of rheumatology nurses and physicians from across Canada who participated in the survey correctly identified that obesity and smoking are associated with more severe rheumatoid arthritis and a poorer response to medications. All but one participant agreed that it was part of their responsibility to discuss these issues with patients.

However, 78 per cent felt not or slightly confident in their ability to help patients quit smoking or achieve weight loss. The majority also did not routinely assist patients in accessing appropriate resources or providers, sending referrals or offering relevant educational materials.

“This research reveals a need to bridge the gap between health care providers’ intentions and actions,” said Derin Karacabeyli, UBC internal medicine resident who conducted the research under the supervision of Arthritis Research Canada Scientific Director, Dr. Diane Lacaille. “To address this, we intend to develop resources for patients and clinicians, such as guides outlining local weight management and smoking cessation expertise, programs, referral processes, and educational materials,” he added.

Participants almost unanimously described medical school, residency and nursing training on weight management and smoking cessation counselling as poor or fair. Additional common barriers included competing demands and lack of time during medical visits, and lack of access to expertise and knowledge of available programs.

“In the short term, resources outlining local providers, programs, referral processes and educational materials may empower health care providers to sensitively educate patients and connect them with appropriate experts,” Karacabeyli said. “In the long term, the focus should be on teaching stigma-free weight management and smoking cessation counselling at the medical and nursing school level.”

To access the research paper, please click here.


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Arthritis Research Canada is the largest clinical arthritis research institution in North America. Our mission is to transform the lives of people living with arthritis through research and engagement. Arthritis Research Canada’s scientific director, Dr. Diane Lacaille is leading a team of over 100 researchers, trainees and staff whose world recognized research is creating a future where people living with arthritis are empowered to triumph over pain and disability. Arthritis Research Canada is conducting research across Canada in British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec and is affiliated with five major universities: University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, University of Calgary, Université Laval, and McGill University. Arthritis Research Canada is leading research aimed at arthritis prevention, early diagnosis, new and better treatment, and improved quality of life.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Heather Caulder
Marketing and Communications Officer
604-207-4010 or hcaulder@arthritisresearch.ca

Dr. Derin Karacabeyli explains his research findings

and what they mean for people living with rheumatoid arthritis:

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