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.
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.
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.
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 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: firstname.lastname@example.org, phone: +44 20 79 76 35 26