RA Awareness Week 2013

In 2013 we held the first ever Rheumatoid Arthritis Awareness Week in the UK!

The National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society was pleased to dedicate this week solely to raising awareness of RA, a disease that more than 400,000 people across the UK live with. Here's a summary of how it went and to thank you for playing your part in what we believe was a tremendous success.

Many of our supporters have told us that a common response to mentioning their RA is “my granny gets a bit of that,” so we wanted to dispel the myth that RA is a disease of the elderly, caused by a lifetime of wear and tear. We want to emphasise the important message that it is an autoimmune disease with no age barriers. Most people are still of a working age when onset occurs so it truly is a life changing condition. Our key message that we wanted to spread throughout the week is that ‘Rheumatoid Arthritis can strike at any age’.

We really wanted you to get involved and be a part of the occasion and we were absolutely delighted with how many of you did. Over the course of the week, 34 information stands were held in public places as well as many other NRAS groups, rheumatology units and GP practices asking for copies of our posters and publications so they could put them on display. We even held an information evening and expert panel Q&A in Maidenhead. At each of these events people were engaging and showing a genuine interest in RA. Together we really have educated so many more people about this disease so let’s hope that continues long into the future.

As well as information stands we had 13 groups/individuals hosting NRAS Tea Parties plus others hosting book sales, golf days, plant sales and bag packing. We even held our own Tea Party in central Maidenhead and were joined by founding Patron and local MP Theresa May and the Mayor of Maidenhead Andrew Jenner. All these events raised valuable funds for NRAS, but they also provided an opportunity for us to raise awareness of RA in a slightly more informal manner. 

Outcomes are always difficult to measure but to put it in real terms, during the week we had a 33% increase in calls to our helpline. If we managed to provide support and reassurance to a few more people than we otherwise would have done, then that kind of success is immeasurable.

To better enable our supporters to get involved, we wanted a large proportion of the campaign to be digital. Many of you use social media such as facebook and twitter and this provides us with an immense resource to help spread the word and you didn’t let us down.

361 people participated in our Thunderclap with our message for the week that RA can strike at any age being sent out by each of those people on Facebook and Twitter at the exact same time – 1pm on Monday 24th – with a total reach of 80,000 people. The  video we produced – Katy’s Journey– was viewed over 9,000 times and the four infographics we created (see below - facing the facts, storyboard, symptoms and mythbuster) were shared several hundred times each with the latter being shared 677 times. The potential reach here is incredible – almost 100,000 people!

Before and during the week we managed to get a reasonable amount of media coverage promoting the week and highlighting the Breaking Down Barriers report we published to launch the week, a report that analysed the lack of awareness of rheumatoid arthritis among the general public.

In the medical press we featured in GP Online (twice), RCN Frontline, Primary Care Today and GM. In the political press we featured in Lib Dem Voice, Left Foot Forward, Total Politics and Politics Home. Nationally we featured in the Sunday Post and the Daily Express and we also featured in local media including well read titles such as the Press and Journal, Yorkshire Post and Irish News. The week also featured in Female First, one of the UK’s leading women’s online magazines.

To coincide with the report we had an Early Day Motion tabled at Westminster by one of our Patrons – Linda Riordan MP – and we had similar motions tabled in the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly. To encourage our political leaders to sign these we set up an e-action campaign which had close to 400 people taking part by writing to their MP, MSP or AM and asking them to sign the motion.

Thank you to everyone for your support throughout the week and for playing your part in raising awareness of rheumatoid arthritis. It was the first of its kind in the UK and we are thrilled with how well it went. We do hope you will join us again next year for RA Awareness Week 2014 which will take place again in the latter half of June, so please make sure you put that date in your diary.

In the meantime, the week may be over but the important job of raising awareness of RA still remains. Please do continue to get involved by sharing whatever information you think is appropriate whenever you get the opportunity. 


To spread the message further we developed a number of infographics, which can be downloaded below and shared wherever possible.

The Infographic

RA infogrpahic 2013


The Mythbuster

The mythbuster 2013

The Storyboard

Storyboard 2013

The Symptoms of RA 



For all media enquires please contact the Media team on media@nras.org.uk.

Thanks for helping us raise the profile of RA!