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Fit For Work EuropeThe Work Foundation

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Archive for the ‘Asia-Pacific’ Category

Fit for Work Korea research launched in National Assembly in Seoul

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

As the Fit for Work programme extends beyond its western European origins it has been fascinating to explore how different countries manage the consequences of chronic ill-health in their working age populations. Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of attending the launch of the Fit for Work report in Seoul. Like many other Asia-Pacific countries, Korea faces a number or pressing demographic and labour market challenges such as ageing which will have profound economic and social consequences. For the research underpinning the Korean report The Work Foundation partnered with Prof Sunwon Kwon and Prof Jongwook Won who, with colleagues, reviewed the Korean literature and data sources on musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and drafted the report.

Prof Bevan speaking at the launch of the Fit for Work Korea

Prof Bevan speaking at the launch of the Fit for Work Korea

Prof Kwon represents the Graduate School of Business at Sookmyung Women’s University and is an expert in labour relations. Prof Won has a background in occupational medicine and is based at the school of medicine at Yonsei University. The excellent final report was launched at a well-attended seminar hosted in the National Assembly in Seoul, hosted by two eminent members of the Assembly – Congresswoman Jaongae Han (member of the labour Committee) and Congressman Yongik Kim (member of the Health & Welfare Committee).

Core findings from the Fit for Work research in Korea show that:

  • The proportion of the total number of compensated occupational diseases in Korea accounted for by MSDs increased from 49.6 per cent in 2003 to 76.5 per cent in 2007.
  • The total cost of work-related MSDs increased from ₩105.3 billion in 2004 to ₩163.3 billion in 2007.
  • People with MSDs accounted for 69.2% of the total of all occupational diseases in 2010
  • The most common condition requiring more than one day of absence from work (caused by or exacerbated by work) was MSDs in the upper limbs (31.2%), followed by MSDs in the lower limbs (13.9%) and lumbar spine (6.9%),
  • MSDs caused directly by working conditions increased from 26.6% of all cases in 2006 to 33.4% of all cases in 2009
  • According to 2012 National Health Insurance Statistics, 14.87 million people received treatment for MSDs, accounting for 32.5% of total treatment across all conditions.
  • MSDs are the biggest cause of absence from work in Korea and account for no less than 52% of overall disorders.
The launch of the Fit for Work Coalition in Korea

The launch of the Fit for Work Coalition in Korea

The ageing labour force in Korea, together with low rates of labour productivity, are key characteristics of the labour market which policy-makers in Seoul are focused on and the Fit for Work research shines a light on the need to prioritise the health and work ability of the Korean workforce as it becomes more susceptible to chronic health problems.

However, I was convinced that opinion-leaders and policy-makers in Korea are increasingly aware of the need to take action and I am confident that the Fit for Work Korea report will make a significant contribution to the debate in the immediate future. I am hopeful that a Korean Fit for Work Coalition will soon be established to ensure that the findings and recommendations of the report influence the debate on workforce health in Korea.

The Fit for Work report on Musculoskeletal Disorders and the labour market in Korea will soon be published on the Fit for Work website.

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Musculoskeletal Disorders threaten productivity of Asia-Pacific economies, say experts

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Experts from across the Asia-Pacific Region in Tokyo today have warned that musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) represent a major threat to productivity and economic growth. In a series of reports experts drawn from medicine, labour economics and occupational health found that MSDs are the primary cause of sickness absence and disability amongst Asia-Pacific workforces and that, as these workforces age, the problem is likely to become more acute. At the first meeting of the Fit for Work Coalition in the Region, these experts have joined forces to propose a series of solutions to this threat which they hope will unite governments, doctors and employers to improve workforce health and improve labour productivity.

Fit for Work Asia Pacific is launched

Fit for Work Asia Pacific is launched

Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) are the primary cause of sickness absence and disability amongst Asia-Pacific workforces, curtailing labour productivity and draining millions of US dollars from the economy every year. This is according to a series of reports published by a group of experts, who have now joined forces under the Fit for Work Coalition and launched an Asia-Pacific initiative to propose solutions to the governments.  

A major study – Fit for Work – conducted by The Work Foundation in 42 countries throughout Europe, the Americas and, recently, the Asia-Pacific informs that MSDs are causing pain and functional impairment to people living with them, as well as putting a great strain on the health and labour systems, with downstream consequences for the economy.

Fit for Work reveals that MSDs account for 53% of all disorders which keep workers off sick in South Korea. They also affect one in four adults in New Zealand, which makes them the primary cause of disability and permanent job loss in the country. Nearly 31% of Australians are living with an MSD, whilst among the 90 million Japanese aged over 30, 21.4 million (24.3 per cent), 3.2 million (3.7 per cent), and 9.1 million (10.4 per cent) were estimated to have low back, hip, and knee pains, respectively. The findings of Fit for Work are in line with a recent report by the World Bank and the Global Burden of Disease, which classifies MSDs as the second cause of disability in the world after mental and behavioural disorders.

Prof Shinya Matsuda - Chair of the Fit for Work Asia-Pacific Coalition

Prof Shinya Matsuda – Chair of the Fit for Work Asia-Pacific Coalition

MSDs are also a great financial burden for the society. “In Japan, we are losing JPY2 trillion each year in direct health care costs attributed to MSDs.” says Professor Shinya Matsuda, University of Occupational and Environmental Health, Japan. “This is a preventable cost. MSDs are manageable conditions, provided workers are enrolled in an early intervention programme, which facilitates early diagnosis and treatment, job retention and return to work. The government should tighten the collaboration between the ministries of health, labour, welfare and finance to implement a national framework for workers living with MSDs.

Professor Matsuda is chairing a group of health professionals, labour market analysts, economists and representatives of patient associations, who have now formed the Fit for Work Asia-Pacific Coalition. The Coalition has been officially launched at a roundtable organised in Tokyo, on the 6th and 7th of April, and is currently bringing together experts from Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam. With support from their European colleagues, the Asian-Pacific members hope to persuade their governments to adopt national plans which prioritise early intervention programmes to MSDs.

Antonella Cardone Executive Director Fit for Work

Antonella Cardone, Executive Director Fit for Work

The new care model – Early Intervention – is currently tested in several European countries and has been successfully implemented in over 25 regions in Spain. Following a two-year pilot in Spain, the sickness absence and job loss associated to MSDs were reduced respectively by 39% and 50%. The cost-benefit analysis also shows that almost £10 were recouped for every £1 invested in the programme.

Prof Stephen Bevan - Founding President Fit for Work

Prof Stephen Bevan – Founding President Fit for Work

Prof Stephen Bevan, Founding President of the Fit for Work Europe and Director of The Work Foundation, explains “Early Intervention can be a winning solution for all stakeholders – individuals with MSDs, health care professionals, employers, policy-makers and governments. The approach reduces the time of diagnosis, treatment and recovery improving patient outcomes and labour market participation, as well as driving savings to the health care and welfare systems.” 


Notes to the Editor

–   Prof. Shinya Matsuda, Chair of the Fit for Work Asia-Pacific and Prof. Stephen Bevan, Founding President of Fit for Work Europe and a director at The Work Foundation, are available for interviews, comments and briefings ;

–   Covering 200 conditions, MSDs include widely known conditions such as back pain and arthritis, injuries caused by trauma, such as fractures, and other conditions that are the result of genetic or developmental abnormalities, as well as bone and soft tissue cancer;

–   Fit for Work is a multi-stakeholder Coalition initiated in Europe, driving policy and practice change across the work and health agendas. We aim to deliver more investment in sustainable healthcare by promoting and implementing early intervention practices. Research shows this approach is the most effective way of ensuring people with MSDs (musculoskeletal disorders) can enter and remain in work across worldwide. Fit for Work is a project led by The Work Foundation, supported by AbbVie and GE Healthcare;

–   A summary of the Early Intervention http://bit.ly/EarlyIn

–   The Fit for Work report in Japan http://bit.ly/1shpffd

–   The Fit for Work report in Australia http://bit.ly/1lv1RH8

–   The Fit for Work report in New Zealand http://bit.ly/1mPWMfx


For media enquiries please contact:

Ioana Piscociu, project manager Fit for Work, email: ipiscociu@theworkfoundation.com, phone: +44 20 79 76 35 26


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Work as a Clinical Outcome: Fit for Work Presentation at Seoul HTA Conference

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Today (18 June) in Seoul, South Korea, I presented some of our Fit for Work research at the annual conference of Health Technology Assessment International (HTAi) – one of the largest gatherings of health economists in the world; the presentations of which are available to download. Our session had the title:

How Health Technology Assessments can consider Labour Market Participation and Work Productivity as a Clinical Outcome: Comparative case studies of international practice.

Dr Marieke Krol

The number of individuals of working age living with at least one chronic condition is increasing due to the effects of population ageing, poor lifestyle choices and later retirement. Most individuals with long-term conditions want to work, but many are denied this opportunity because some employers and healthcare professionals fail to recognise that being in good quality work can aid condition management and rehabilitation, ultimately reducing the economic burden on the state, employers and households. Yet, in many countries the HTA regimes do not take into account labour market outcomes when assessing the cost-effectiveness of interventions.

During the last year, the Fit for Work Europe Coalition has brought together experts from across the globe to explore evidence for the inclusion of a wider societal perspective in healthcare decision-making. Despite methodological issues, evidence suggests that macro cross-governmental decisions between healthcare, labour, and welfare departments could apply HTA as a way of counteracting the effects of ageing and rise in disability on labour market participation and work productivity. Our eight case studies found that the scope of HTA agencies, and the incentives to adopt the results of HTA differ between countries, which limits the ability of HTA to consider a wide range of investments (such as new treatments and devices), as well as the implementation of  recommendations informed by HTA. The panel compared the use of societal and payer perspectives in health decision-making internationally, and provided practical recommendations for health economists and policymakers.

Dr Rupendra ShresthaThe session was chaired by Dr Chris Henshall an associate professor of the health economics research group at Brunel University and visiting fellow at the centre for health economics at the University of York. As well as myself, we were joined by Dr Marieke Krol of the institute for medical technology assessment at the Erasmus University in the Netherlands and Dr Rupendra Shrestra who is a research fellow of the NHMRC clinical trials centre at the Sydney Medical School at The University of Sydney in Australia.

The consensus of the presentations and the panel discussion was that work productivity data could enhance healthcare decision-making in many cases, especially where people of working age ran a high risk of leaving the labour market as a result of their health. Dr Shrestra presented data from Australia which showed that 58% of men between the ages of 45-64 years who leave the labour market, do so because of a health condition. Dr Krol suggested that, from her analysis, if work productivity were included routinely in health economic assessments of medical interventions, approximately 30% of decisions to deny access on cost-utility grounds would be overturned.

The panel agreed that, while more work was needed to reach consensus on the methods used to calculate productivity costs, the demographic shifts in the workforce and the need to extend healthy working lives provided compelling impetus for more proactive use of healthcare interventions to help more people with chronic conditions to remain in, or return to, work.

Posted in Asia-Pacific, Health Economics, Labour policy | Comments Off on Work as a Clinical Outcome: Fit for Work Presentation at Seoul HTA Conference
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Is the Japanese Workforce ‘Fit for Work?’

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

The publication of our Fit for Work? Reports in Australia and New Zealand earlier this year confirmed that the initiative now has a global ‘reach’. With Canada, Israel and Turkey the subject of previous reports (and Russia, Brazil and the USA in the pipeline), the Fit for Work? Messages are really gathering momentum. And last Friday I had the honour to be in Tokyo to present the findings of our Fit for Work? Research in Japan.


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Addressing productivity challenges in New Zealand

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

On September 5 the latest Fit for Work report was launched in New Zealand. Our report highlighted that New Zealand must address the problem of labour productivity so that it is able to extract the most economic benefit from its labour force, and secure high levels of growth.

In 2010 New Zealand was ranked 27 percentage points below the OECD average in terms of labour productivity, and a further 32 percentage points behind Australia (Patterson and Brown, 2010) – something we’re sure their neighbourly rivals over the Tasman Sea were happy about! In addition to low skill levels among the working age population, a significant reason for low levels of productivity is likely to be ill-health.


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Fit for Work Down Under

Monday, May 14th, 2012

The influence of Fit for Work research now extends far beyond Europe with our study of MSDs in Australia being published on 13th May at the annual conference of the Australian Rheumatology Association in Canberra. Despite having been hit less severely  by the economic crisis, the Australian labour market is still being affected and it is timely to take a look at the effect of  musculoskeletal conditions on the workforce.

Our research showed that:

– Almost 2.2 million (14.7 per cent) of working age Australians report a disability and almost a quarter of them experience
profound or severe core activity limitations. It is estimated that people with chronic conditions in Australia are 60 per cent less likely to participate in the labour market.

– Work-related injuries and diseases cost the Australian economy $57.5 billion in 2005-2006, representing 5.9 per cent of GDP. At least 43 per cent of all work-related injury/disease compensation claims resulted from cases of MSDs

– Up to 31.9 per cent of Disability Support Pension claims result from musculoskeletal and connective tissue disorders

– It is estimated that MSDs cost the Australian health care system almost $4.6 billion a year.

– Back pain, back problems and disc disorders are very common complaints in Australia, affecting nearly 2.8 million people, or 14 per cent of the Australian population.

– Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is the second most prevalent form of arthritis in Australia, affecting at least 2 per cent of the population and accounting for 4 per cent of the total expenditure on MSDs. Only 31 per cent of those with RA are in full-time employment, compared to 53 per cent of the general population in Australia

As with our research in many other countries, we found that earlier diagnosis and intervention could help more Australian workers with MSDs to remain in our return to work and that work participation and productivity – as well as quality of life – could be improved through more ‘joined-up’ effort between Government, healthcare professionals and employers. We are hopeful that  policy-makers and opinion-leaders across Australia will heed our messages and redouble their efforts to prioritise work as a clinical outcome for workers with MSDs.

Posted in Asia-Pacific, Health Policy, Labour policy, Policy | Comments Off on Fit for Work Down Under
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Mental Health and Chronic Physical Illnesses

Friday, October 15th, 2010

Sunday (10 October 2010) was World Mental Health Day, and the theme is: ‘Mental Health and Chronic Physical Illnesses: The Need for Continued and Integrated Care.’ Along these lines, our new report, Body and Soul, examines the relationship between mental and physical health, including musculoskeletal disorders, and the impact of these conditions on productivity and work participation.

Having both a physical and mental health condition is common, and the prevalence of mental health conditions is higher among those with a chronic physical health conditions, and vice versa. The relationship between mental and physical health conditions is bi-directional – meaning the physical health impacts mental health and mental health impacts physical health. Often, when individuals have both mental and physical health conditions, their health and work outcomes are worse. For example, around 25% of people with arthritis report a co-morbid mental health condition, which can increase psychological barriers to functioning and the number of days out of role.

In addition to examining the relationship between mental and physical health conditions, Body and Soul explores interventions that seek to reduce the impact these conditions have on individuals and society. This year’s World Mental Health Day calls for continued and integrated care, which Body and Soul also recommends. More effort needs to be directed to integrating care for physical and mental health.

The report also provides recommendations for employers. We know that work, particularly good work, is good for health and can aid in recovery. Therefore, providing good quality jobs that offer flexibility, autonomy and control, can mitigate the effects of health conditions – mental and physical – on individuals, employers and society. Work provides a sense of normalcy, which is illustrated by the following quote highlighted in the report:

‘I felt that one thing that would really help was if I could keep on doing the stuff I did before as much as possible so my life wouldn’t be limited by the condition.’

Our report calls for stakeholders to improve recognition between physical and mental health and to identify, design and provide effective interventions that address both physical and mental health in the health care setting, as well as the workplace setting. In the coming years, the prevalence of mental and chronic physical health conditions is set to increase, which means that employers and health professionals will have to do more to reduce the impact of these conditions on the working age population. Already in the UK, one in six working-age individuals have a common mental health condition, and the costs of mental health conditions in England exceed £105 billion. Mental health and associated co-morbid physical health conditions remain an important issue for individuals, families, colleagues, line managers, health professionals and policy makers.

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