Objective: To identify the effect of attending a cognitive-behavioural arthritis education programme on the health status of participants with newly diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis (RA) compared with a control group.
Design: Randomized controlled trial.
Setting: Hospital based.
Subjects: Newly diagnosed with RA.
Intervention: Participation in either a cognitive-behavioural arthritis education programme or a standard arthritis education programme (control group). Sessions for both groups lasted for 2 hours per week for four weeks. Subjects were examined at home by an assessor blinded to group allocation, prior to and three and six months following attendance.
Outcome measures: The main outcome measure was the Physical Function subscale of the Arthritis Impact Measurement Scale Two. Other outcome measures included erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), joint count scores, assessments of pain and psychological status.
Results: Fifty-four subjects (mean time since diagnosis 4.5 months) took part. Baseline analysis revealed that the control group had significantly better levels of functional ability (U = 185; p = 0.009) and lower levels of helplessness (U = 168; p = 0.002) prior to intervention. This difference remained unchanged three months later. Six months following the intervention no significant differences were noted between the groups for any measure of health status. There were no significant changes in health status over time in either group.
Conclusion: Attending a cognitive-behavioural arthritis education programme had no significant effect on the health status of individuals newly diagnosed with RA. The move to early use of these programmes should be examined further, with a larger sample size and longer duration of follow-up.