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Fit For Work EuropeThe Work Foundation

Fit EU Blog

Discourse on work and wellbeing in the EU

Posts Tagged ‘EU’

Latvian Presidency Conference focuses on Health & Work

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

As The Work Foundation’s research has demonstrated, the health of the working age population across the EU is likely to represent a major economic and social burden over the next 20-30 years. In a context in which chronic conditions are imposing an increasingly significant burden on our healthcare systems, and where only 3 per cent of EU health spending is allocated to prevention, new approaches throughout the continuum of care (from early prevention to recovery) are urgently required.

Last week The Work Foundation, through our Fit for Work initiative, hosted a major conference to showcase innovative approaches from across the EU to maximising ‘workability’ among people with chronic illness. The conference – Healthcare Solutions to Improve Workability – was endorsed by the Latvian Presidency of the Council of the European Union and Riga Stradins University and we were delighted to welcome Dr Guntis Belēvičs, Minister of Health and Mr Uldis Augulis, Minister of Welfare who opened the event.

We heard contributions from Poland, Spain, Latvia, Germany and Austria, together with presentations from both the OECD and WHO Europe.

In addition, at a meeting of national representatives of Fit for Work Coalitions from across Europe, we had presentations from The Netherlands, Estonia, Finland, Czech Republic, Belgium and the USA. We also launched a new paper looking at the economic benefits of early healthcare interventions which help people with MSDs to stay in work. This paper shows that early, work-focused interventions can reduce sick leave and lost work productivity among workers with MSDs by more than 50 per cent, reduce healthcare costs by up to two-thirds, reduce disability benefits costs by up to 80 per cent, reduce the risk of permanent work disability and job loss by up to 50 percent, reduce the risk of developing a co-morbid mental illness and deliver societal benefits by supporting people with work-limiting chronic conditions to optimise their functional capacity and maintain economic independence.

The debate in Latvia focused very much on the practical steps we need to take to convince policymakers, clinicians and employers to re-double their efforts to prioritise early return to work for people with chronic health problems through earlier intervention and through vocational rehabilitation support.

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Widening the gap of inequality. MSD – the forgotten non-communicable disease.

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

DG SANCO announced that it is going to host a summit in Brussels this April to debate innovative solutions to the growing burden of chronic diseases on the health care systems and the economy. Surprisingly enough, musculoskeletal disorders are not on their agenda. A door slammed in the face of 100 million European citizens suffering from musculoskeletal pain – one might say. To give you an idea of the dimensions of the problem, this figure is comparable with the aggregated population of Belgium, Germany and Austria. Actually, in excess of 40 million people are of working-age and have an MSD cause by their work. To make things worse, evidence-based studies conducted within Fit for Work Europe, through The Work Foundation, and elsewhere by organisations such as Eumusc.net and even the European Commission, show that the EU economy loses €240bn to MSD annually. MSD is also the leading cause of sickness absence in the EU, accounting for half of all absences from work lasting three days or longer and 60% of permanent job loss.

Yet the European institutions seem to have turned a blind eye to MSDs. Neither the European Commission, nor the World Health Organisation classifies MSDs as serious non-communicable diseases. Why is that? One can speculate that MSDs, unlike cancer, diabetes or cardiovascular diseases, are not considered to be a major cause of death. It is a fact, though, that MSDs can seriously contribute to the increase of mortality rates. People living with an MSD incur the risk of developing other conditions such as mental health problems – 30% of people with MSDs also have depression – obesity and cardiovascular diseases.

Allegedly, policy-makers have given little priority to MSDs because of insufficient cross-country data. One might argue that most people with MSDs are treated in outpatient settings and that most health information systems are rather designed to provide data about inpatient care.  It could also be claimed that MSD diagnoses are recorded differently in various member states, which makes it difficult to draw comparable conclusions. However, in recent years considerable progress has been made in capturing and processing comprehensive data related to MSDs. To name just a few sources, the Global Burden of Diseases and Eumusc.net have released hefty reports on the societal and economic impact of MSDs.

In addition, Fit for Work Europe has been working for five years now to promote the prioritisation of MSDs amongst the most harmful non-communicable diseases and the implementation of healthcare and workplace interventions that support  job retention and return to work for people living with MSDs. With an evidence base of over 30 studies conducted in Europe, Fit for Work is currently testing practical solutions to MSDs in several members states (Spain, the UK, Latvia, Portugal, Lithuania). 

The first results of the Early Intervention pilot that ran in Spain clearly indicates that an earlier, more sustained recovery for working age citizens suffering from MSDs can highly contribute towards increased cost savings for the economy, easing the strain on the health care systems and increasing the labour market participation. As featured in the Parliament Magazine (p. 27), the Spanish pilot showed a 50% reduction in permanent work disability (people leaving work completely), a 39% decrease in temporary work disability (people having sick days from work as a result of their condition) and a 40% reduction in sanitary costs. In addition, it highly increased patient satisfaction, whilst the cost-benefit analysis revealed a two-year return of more than €10 for each €1 invested in the programme.

Fit for Work summons DG SANCO not to be oblivious to an innovative solution like Early Intervention, which could benefit not only the Europeans living with MSDs, but also people with other chronic conditions such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular and mental health disorders.

>>> Check independent expert opinions about MSDs and Early Intervention featured in a video from the Fit for Work 2013 Summit

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Aching joints: Are musculoskeletal disorders undermining a productive and competitive European workforce?

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

UK research organisation to conduct study on socio-economic impact of disorders

Brussels, 12 January 2009 – A groundbreaking study is launched today in 24 countries across Europe to understand how certain chronic health conditions affect people’s ability to work and make contributions to society. The study will also consider the impact on public welfare systems of supporting significant numbers of people who are unable to participate in labour markets.

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The study, called “Fit for Work,” is led by The Work Foundation, a UK-based not for profit research and consultancy organisation. It will assess the prevalence and impact of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), such as rheumatoid arthritis, chronic lower back pain and injuries to joints, muscles and tendons. It will examine how these conditions affect a person’s daily life and what cost they place upon societies as a whole.

(more…)

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Edite Estrela Video Blog

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

For more information from Edite Estrela please go to her personal blog here. You may also be interested to read an article by Edite which was published on 10th April 2009. Please go here:

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