Yesterday I took great pleasure in launching the findings of the Fit for Work Greece research in sunny Athens. I was honoured to be a keynote speaker at the 1st Pan-Hellenic Congress on Occupational Health & Safety, presenting to an audience of 1,200 people. The event was also attended by Deputy Minister for Labour Mr Giorgos Koutroumanis, whom I had the pleasure to welcome to the ‘Fit for Work’ stand at the Congress.
The biggest single cause of absence from work in Greece, as in many other countries, is MSDs. And yet, the quality of national data in Greece has not – until recently – enabled researchers or policy-makers to compile a detailed picture of the extent of the problem, its costs or the effectiveness of interventions to help Greek workers to continue working.
Our research has attempted to fill some of these gaps by summarising what is known about MSDs in Greece and highlighting areas of policy and practice where better data, earlier intervention and vocational rehabilitation are likely to improve the job prospects of those with MSDs. Specific areas where we believe practice in Greece might improve include:
• More systematic collection & analysis of data on the prevalence and cost of MSDs in the Greek workforce.
• GPs to consider return to work – rather than early retirement – as a clinical goal.
• Earlier access to diagnosis and clinical interventions which can help keep people with MSDs at work. These interventions will vary according to the condition but will include physiotherapists, psychologists, occupational therapists, rheumatologists and rehabilitation specialists. We found evidence that, in some cases, access to these specialists was too slow, delaying the use of interventions which could extend working lives and maintain productivity levels.
We also suggested that adopting the UK-style ‘Fit Note’ would help GPs and employers focus on the worker’s capacity rather than their incapacity. This, in turn, might encourage more frequent use of workplace adjustments for workers with MSDs.
In a further session at the Congress John Yfantopoulos, Professor on Health Economics & Social Policy at the University of Athens, presented more recent data about the prevalence of MSDs in the Greek workforce. He highlighted gender, sectoral and occupational differences which allow more comprehensive analysis to be made of the risks of job loss.
Other speakers at the Congress represented institutions which have provided invaluable support and advice to the Fit for Work programme in other countries. These included Professor Marc de Greef of Prevent (Belgium), Dr Markku Aaltonen of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and Dr Christa Sedlatschek, INQA Director, Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Germany).
This was a major event which, I hope, will provide a solid foundation for future initiatives in Greece. I am very grateful to colleagues at Abbott and Weber Shandwick in Athens who made my visit so pleasant and whose professionalism allowed the Fit for Work initiative to gain such prominence at such an important Congress.
This entry was posted on Friday, December 3rd, 2010 at 6:12 pm and is filed under EULAR, Europe. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.