New programme could transform arthritis suffers' lives

Arthritis is a growing problem and a leading cause of disability in adult New Zealanders. There's no cure, but an innovative programme in Northland is attempting to help people manage the condition.

One of those people is 45-year-old Dixon Titore, who feels he's getting old before his time.

"I don't consider myself old. The frustrating thing is I'm a young 40-year-old in a 50-year-old's body or something," he tells Newshub. 

After years of playing rugby, he suffers from back pain and has trouble with his ankles.

Mr Titore is among one in 10 adult New Zealanders who suffer from osteoarthritis, but he wants to stay fit and healthy for his four young children.

A trial programme in Hokianga aims to help improve the lives of people with low back pain and osteoarthritis. The five-week group programme involves a physiotherapist, nutritionist and psychologist, working with patients on diet and exercise and learning to manage their pain.

AUT Associate Professor Peter Larmer chairs the Mobility Action Programme run by the Ministry of Health and says it's been successful in other countries.

"Engaging in these programmes to allow people to continue - one, to work longer and two, have a better quality of life; it's a no-brainer," he says.

"For every dollar spent on these sort of early intervention programmes, there's $5 saved later on, so people either don't require surgery or they're able to defer it a whole lot later."

It's one of 17 programmes being trialled and it's hoped they'll be rolled out across the country.