From the president: APLAR at a glance

3 minute read

An overview of The Asia Pacific League of Association for Rheumatology

The Asia Pacific League of Association for Rheumatology (APLAR) initially began its journey in Sydney, Australia in 1963 as SEAPAL (South East Asia and Pacific Area League Against Rheumatism).

Australia, New Zealand, Japan and India were the founding members. Over the course of 55 years, 29 countries joined this esteemed society. APLAR, as it is now known, has a good mixture of countries both from the developed as well as the developing nations; at the moment there are 33 affiliated member national organisations.


It is because of this mixture that we find the delivery of services in the sector of rheumatology to be so variable throughout the Asia Pacific region. This partly depends on differing literacy levels, disposable income, health insurance policies and available logistics.


The rich source of clinical material that is available in Asia Pacific along with the eagerness of the patients to be directed by physicians to the most effective mode of care,  should result in a never ending supply of research materials. However, even though there have been a number of commendable publications from the Asia-Pacific regions, there is a marked disparity in research publications between the developing and developed nations due to the availability of resources, both logistic and monetary.


COPCORD (Community-Oriented Program for Control of Rheumatic Disorders) is an enterprising program designed especially for resource limited countries where populations are screened for various musculoskeletal disorders. The program is carried out in three stages: stage I collection of epidemiological data, stage II  education of health workers, patients and the community, and stage III  identification of risk factors and primary and secondary prevention of the rheumatic disorders.

Stage I comprises three phases, with the final phase of patients being the evaluation in detail by doctors. The ultimate goal is to identify and control any risk factor that may contribute to the rheumatological disorder. Fifteen countries from the Asia-Pacific region involved in COPCORD have so far contributed data to the global literature.


Apart from research and publications, APLAR nations house an enviable number of Centres of Excellence in the field of rheumatology.

Centres of Excellence host cutting-edge researchers especially in the basic research field. Countries such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore have world-recognised centres where both research and clinical medicine are advancing in unison.

As APLAR is one big family, the potential for advances in rheumatology is significant. The united strength of the region’s research capability will be enhanced as the ease of communication between all the member organisations increases.

I believe that if short exchange programs between developed and developing nations can be arranged, then APLAR as a whole can make an even stronger mark in the international rheumatology arena.

Dr Syed Atiqul Haq is Professor, Department of Rheumatology, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University and is president of APLAR. Dr Haq formed the Bangladesh Rheumatology Society in 1997 and currently is its president. He founded the COPCORD Study Group in Bangladesh in 2000.

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