A new programme to transform the lives of Singapore's 40,000 psoriasis patients was launched today by the Psoriasis Association of Singapore (PAS) and Janssen, a division of Johnson & Johnson Pte Ltd.
Called Freedom 360, the programme takes patient support to a new level by taking a 360 degree approach to disease management - looking beyond medical treatment, to include the psycho-social needs of psoriasis patients.
It will use social media (www.facebook.com/Freedom360sg) and online platforms (www.freedom360.com.sg) to develop a supportive community for psoriasis patients so they can interact and find the strength to go through their daily battle of living with psoriasis. It will also run workshops and activities to give psoriasis patients the skills they need to improve their quality of life.
Activities include learning stress management, motivational talks, diet, exercise programs, and social events - topics which will benefit both their physical and mental wellbeing. Janssen has set up the website and Facebook page for Freedom 360 and will post materials and resources provided by both the PAS and Janssen on psoriasis.
Psoriasis is an incurable disease that causes scaly and flaking skin, red and inflamed patches as well as pain and itching, often covering a person's entire body.
It is not fully understood what causes psoriasis. Experts believe that it probably starts in the immune system when white blood cells (called T cells), normally used by the body to fight infection, are mistakenly activated against healthy skin cells.
In Singapore, between one and two per cent of the population are in a daily battle with their psoriasis.
Dr Colin Theng, President of PAS said: "Many psoriasis sufferers no longer believe they can live a normal life. Freedom360 will give these patients hope, as well as the skills they need to transform their lives."
"Even after a patient's skin condition improves, the emotional and social impacts of psoriasis continue to afflict the patient. Many lack the confidence to make friends and start new relationships, or to seek new job opportunities. Through Freedom360 we can help psoriasis patients deal with the social, emotional and psychological scars that psoriasis causes."
"Freedom360 gives hope to the tens of thousands of psoriasis patients who believe they will never enjoy the same quality of life as other Singaporeans," Dr Theng said.
Speaking at the launch of Freedom360, psoriasis patient Nik Samsudin spoke of the discrimination he faced when first diagnosed, and how the help of other psoriasis patients helped him learn to live with his illness.
Nik was diagnosed with psoriasis in 1999. When his doctor told him he had psoriasis, he had never heard of the illness before. His symptoms were all over his body including bad skin flakes and dandruff.
"The most devastating thing was to find out that there is no cure for psoriasis," said Nik. "To fight the stigma of the disease, I had my own information sheets printed that explained what psoriasis is and handed them out to family and friends. I don't blame the people who shunned me, I just believe they were ignorant."
"Being part of a community pulled me out from the depths of depression to find the strength to fight the disease and find a better life for myself. I believe Freedom 360 will give other psoriasis patients a second chance at life which I only found the hard way after a long struggle," said Nik.
Participation in Freedom360 is open to everyone. A special 'Members' section requires a referral from a doctor, as this section contains specific treatment information.