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Posts Tagged ‘msds’

Care planning and musculoskeletal conditions in the UK

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

Commenting on the NHS Mandate and the latest findings of Arthritis Research UK, Dr Laura Boothman, Policy Manager, says:

“Our new analyses of national survey data indicate that, despite the Mandate commitment, just 12% of people with a musculoskeletal condition currently have a care plan. There is an opportunity for many more people to benefit.” Read more on The Work Foundation blog.

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People with chronic MSDs compromising their health to keep their jobs, new report reveals

Friday, September 5th, 2014

The government, the NHS, and employers are failing to provide the necessary support for people with chronic MSDs (musculoskeletal disorders)* to stay in work. This is according to a new report released today (Friday 5th September) by Lancaster University’s Work Foundation and the Fit for Work UK Coalition. The findings also indicate that some patients are putting their health at risk to hold on to their jobs.

Update: Commenting on the report, Sue Browning, deputy chief executive of the CSP, said: “Physiotherapists are experts at keeping people healthy in work, or facilitating a return after sickness absence, and it is very important that employers provide staff with fast access to occupational health services (…) The NHS should also make self-referral to physiotherapy available across the country”. Read the full statement of Sue Browning on the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy website.

Professor Stephen Bevan, director of the Centre for Workforce Effectiveness at The Work Foundation and founding president of Fit for Work UK, said: “Workers with MSDs often find themselves fighting a lonely battle to remain in work. The government, employers and clinicians should make it a priority to support them to remain in employment after diagnosis”.

Currently, Britain is losing 30.5 million working days a year to MSDs, which are the leading cause of sickness absence, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS)**. Today’s paper shows that employers, in particular small organisations, have little knowledge about government schemes such as “Access to Work” and are insufficiently prepared to manage chronic conditions in the workplace. Many workers admit to being reluctant to ask for help from their line managers for fear of stigma, negative judgement and job loss. Others said they had to involve their union to get the necessary support or move into self-employment.

The interviews conducted for the report released today highlight that, unless action is taken, individuals’ health conditions and quality of life will continue to be damaged by work, with some leaving the labour market prematurely. The consequence of the status quo is an increase in productivity loss, sickness absence and, ultimately, the welfare bill.

One employee interviewed in the report said: “Last year, the team were very understaffed some individuals went off sick. I think the pressure to try and do other people’s jobs as well as your own just got too much for me. It was a very stressful time to me and that made my illness a lot worse”. Another explained: “It’s a bit rule by fear in this department these days. They’ll try and get rid of you if you’ve been off too long with your health”.

Kate Summers, research officer at The Work Foundation, commented: “Individuals with chronic MSDs will go to great lengths to remain in work. They will give up aspects of their family and social life, and they will even take roles below their skill set. This is because work can bring many benefits – be they financial, psychological or social. These benefits are undermined if individuals are working in a environment that is not good for their health”.

The report makes four recommendations: 1. The government should increase participation to initiatives like “Access to Work” and should provide extra assistance for employees working in small and medium enterprises; 2. The government should also ensure that work is viewed as a “clinical outcome” by clinicians and invest in more “specialist nurse” roles; 3. Employers should consider all necessary workplace adjustments and offer career development opportunities for people with chronic MSDs; 4. Clinicians should view it as part of their role to ask patients about their work lives.

The authors of the paper also added that they welcome the government’s new Health and Work Service in England and Wales, but that it needs to focus on sustained return to work outcomes.

The report is being previewed on Friday at the conference “Self care & resilience: How we can care?” organised by the College of Medicine at the King’s College, in London

– ENDS –

Notes to the Editors:

1. Kate Summers, research officer, is available for interviews, briefings and written comment. 3. The paper is part of a national campaign led by Fit for Work UK, informing the public debate on dealing with the growing burden of MSDs and calling for coordinated action across all main political parties in the UK. 4. *Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) cover around 200 disorders that affect the joints, bones, muscles and connective tissues. MSDs include back pain, arthritis, osteoarthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, 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. 5. ** The “Sickness Absence in the Labour Market” report. 6. The Fit for Work UK Coalition is an active partnership of healthcare professionals, policymakers, employers and advocacy groups founded in 2007. It supports people with long-term conditions, particularly musculoskeletal conditions. Their members are: AbbVie, the Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Alliance (ARMA), BT Group, Capita, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP), National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society (NASS), National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society (NRAS), The Work Foundation, and the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP). 7. Lancaster University’s Work Foundation transforms people’s experience of work and the labour market through high quality applied research that empowers individuals and influences public policies and organisational practices. The Work Foundation is part of Lancaster University – an alliance that enables both organisations to further enhance their impact.

Media enquiries:

Ioana Piscociu, ipiscociu@theworkfoundation.com, 020 7976 3526, for urgent out-of-hours enquiries: 0755 178 14 06.

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Fit for Work Europe Preparing for the Latvian Presidency of the EU Council

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

On 1st January 2015 the Latvian Government assumes the Presidency of the EU Council. It does so at a crucial time, with economic recovery painfully slow and unevenly distributed among EU Member States, and with jobs (especially for the young) and productivity all high on the agenda. In addition, the new Commission will still be very new and only just beginning to establish its core priorities. This places the Latvian Presidency in a potentially very interesting position and, last week, I spent two days in the beautiful capital city of Riga meeting members of our Latvian Fit for Work Coalition and Health Ministers in the Latvian Health Ministry to discuss ways in which Fit for Work Europe can play an active part in shaping the priorities and content of the Latvian Presidency.

Daiga Behmane - Project Lead, Fit for Work Latvia

Daiga Behmane – Project Lead, Fit for Work Latvia

My visit was hosted by Daiga Behmane, Project Leader of the Latvian Fit for Work Coalition, President of the Latvian Association of Health Economics and lecturer at Riga Stradins University. Daiga brings considerable experience and insight to the work of the Coalition and is well-placed to bring the Fit for Work messages alive to stakeholder in Latvia about early intervention, the need to prioritise health as a clinical outcome and the need to regard health spending which leads to improved workability as an investment rather than a cost. These were some of the messages which Daiga and I took to the Deputy Under-Secretary of State for Health, Egita Pole, and some of her senior officials. We discussed whether some of these principles might be reflected in the priorities of the Latvian Presidency as well as our plans to run a high level event on chronic conditions and work – featuring MSDs – as part of the Presidency programme.

In other meetings I enjoyed an excellent discussion with Prof Daina Andersone of Pauls Stradins Clinical University Hospital, a very eminent Latvian rheumatologist who has strong views about the need to treat young people with inflammatory MSDs as early as possible to help them manage their conditions and successfully move from education to employment. I also met with Dr Jelena Reste. Jelena is an Occupational Physician at Riga Stradins University and a member of the Latvian FfW Coalition. She has been conducting research on MSDs in Latvia and has access to some useful data and research on the prevalence of MSDs in Latvia’s working age population. She and her colleagues have been doing some excellent research on workplace interventions as well as a project on the cost-effectiveness of self-management initiatives.

The challenge for Latvia is that state spending on healthcare has recently fallen below 3 per cent of GDP – a low figure compared with many other countries. This makes it more difficult to make persuasive arguments that investing in workforce health in the short-term will bring wider economic and social benefits in the medium-term. Despite this, the Fit for Work Coalition in Latvia is well-positioned and well-respected and we hope that the weight of evidence and good examples from both within and outside Latvia will help show that prevention – especially in the case of workforce health – is better than cure. For more details on our recommendations for the health and work officials in Latvia you might want to take a look at our evidence-based report.

>> Take a look at our Position Paper for the Latvian Presidency of the EU Council.

>> Daiga Behmane spoke at the Fit for Work 2013 Summit in October. You may check her presentation here.

>> Follow us on Twitter @FfWEurope  @StephenBevan

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Posted in Europe, Health Economics, Health Policy, Labour policy, Musculoskeletal Disorders, Policy | 1 Comment »
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EU Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at Work 2014-2020

Friday, June 6th, 2014

Response from The Work Foundation and the Fit for Work Europe Coalition

The Work Foundation, part of Lancaster University, is an applied research and policy think tank which specialises on the health of the working age population. The Fit for Work Europe Coalition has, since 2009, been conducting research on the impact of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) of the health and productivity of workers across all EU Member States.

In response to the Strategic Framework, Prof Stephen Bevan, Director of the Centre for Workforce Effectiveness at The Work Foundation and Founding President of Fit for Work Europe, said:

1. We welcome the strategic framework as it recognises that workplace health and safety are critical areas to sustained economic recovery, especially as the workforce ages and as increasing labour productivity becomes a strategic priority.

2. We are concerned that the strategic framework places little emphasis on a number of workforce health issues which have a significant impact both on workers and on the businesses where they work. For example, it is clear from our own research that EU workforce health and safety cannot merely focus on the workplace causes of ill-health among workers. Pre-existing conditions which are exacerbated by work, or co-morbid health conditions where non-work factors are important and lead to workplace consequences (i.e. lost productivity, presenteeism) must also be given priority, as should the wider psychological climate of workplaces.

3. We are increasingly convinced that joined-up efforts to promote workforce health are required. We feel that the strategic framework should reflect the need for cross-silo investment in workforce health across government at national level and at EC level. We are concerned that, with austerity policies, there has been a more narrow focus on initiatives which are low cost, low risk and which do not prioritise early intervention or prevention. In addition, EU-OSH should be focusing more on coordinating efforts in national health systems to prioritise work as a clinical outcome of treatment among people of working age. Unless the expertise of OH professionals is included more prominently in the way workers with health condition receive access to health treatments which support job retention and return to work, our experience tells us that ‘work ability’ will not be given sufficient priority.

4. The strategic framework should also focus on providing more practical support for employers to make workplace adaptations & to focus on job retention among employees with long-term or chronic conditions. Dissemination of national examples of early interventions which deliver good workplace, clinical and economic results Highlighting case studies of cross-agency working at national level where employers, health systems and welfare interventions combine to promote job retention and return to work for more workers whose jobs are at risk. We would like to see existing legislation on workplace accommodations for people with MSDS, for example, focus on early intervention, and recognise the effect on work ability of pre-existing and comorbid conditions which are not caused directly by work, Specific support for small and medium-sized enterprises should also be targeted.

5. We were very disappointed that the proposed MSD Directive was abandoned after several years of development work. MSDs are the leading cause of sickness absence in Europe, accounting for half of all absences and 60% of permanent work incapacity. In addition, MSDs cost up to 2% of EU GDP, i.e. around €240bn in costs to the continent each year. Our experience is that, in matters of workforce health and safety – requiring a strategic approach – social dialogue can undermine bold, visionary and forward-looking initiatives as a result of narrow, sectional positions being taken. While seeking consensus is to be encouraged, we are concerned that measures to mitigate the negative impact of foreseeable long-term, demographic and epidemiologically important health changes in the working age population in the EU will be undermined by the occasional short-term and self-interested nature of some aspects of the social dialogue process. We would like to see the strategic framework reflect this need more explicitly.

– Ends –

Notes to editors

1. Prof Stephen Bevan, Director of the Centre for Workforce Effectiveness at The Work Foundation and Founding President of Fit for Work Europe, is available for interviews, briefings and written comment.

2. The Work Foundation transforms people’s experience of work and the labour market through high quality applied research that empowers individuals and influences public policies and organisational practices.

3. Fit for Work Europe is a multi-stakeholder Coalition, driving policy and practice change across the work and health agendas in then UK and Europe. 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 the EU and globally. Fit for Work Europe is a project led by The Work Foundation, supported by AbbVie and GE Healthcare.

4. Fit for Work Europe submitted a response to the EU-OSHA consultation on the new EU Occupational Safety and Health Policy Framework (2014-2020), which can be read here.

 

Media enquiries:

Ioana Piscociu, 020 7976 3526, ipiscociu@theworkfoundation.com

For urgent out-of-hours enquiries: 0755 178 14 06

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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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Minister Andriukaitis calls for Early Intervention in Lithuania at event in the Parliament

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

The Health Minister, Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis, called for the implementation of the Early Intervention care model in the Republic of Lithuania at an event organised by the Lithuanian Fit for Work Coalition in the Parliament, on the 17th of March. The Minister’s call to action is a major milestone for the Fit for Work mission, as the pan-European Coalition advocates for EU mobilisation against the burden of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) both at central and member state levels.

Minister Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis calls for Early Intervention

Minister Vytenis Povilas Andriukaitis calls for Early Intervention

The Fit for Work Coalition in Lithuania has been advocating for quite some time for the implementation of a cost-effective solution to reduce the harmful societal and economic impact of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). According to a Fit for Work report analysing the impact of MSDs to the labour market in Lithuania, which is part of a pan-European study conducted by the Coalition through The Work Foundation, MSDs account for about half of all occupational conditions in the country. Fit for Work also found that more than half of those with serious forms of MSDs, such as rheumatoid arthritis, were more likely to become disable than the general EU population living with the same condition, costing the economy around €101 million a year.

On the 17th of March, at the “Musculoskeletal diseases and workability” conference, the  fifth event organised by the Fit for Work Coalition  at the Lithuanian Parliament and chaired by the Health Care Committee and the Lithuanian Rheumatologists Society, the Minister himself called for setting up an “Early Intervention” pilot., The audience, consisting of members of the government, directors of health organisations and experts from various governmental institutions, heard from the Minister Andriukaitis that the innovative care model can significantly reduce both the sickness absence and the permanent job loss attributed to MSDs, promoting a greater participation to the labour market and, thus, saving costs to the Lithuanian economy on the longer term.

The Musculoskeletal Diseases and Workability conference at the Lithuanian Parliament

The Musculoskeletal Diseases and Workability conference at the Lithuanian Parliament

Minister Andriukaitis’s demonstration was backed by Professor Irena Butrimiene from the University of Vilnius. Prof Butrimiene presented some operational scenarios for the set-up of the Early Intervention pilot. These are going to be discussed with experts from the Ministry of Health in the coming weeks.    

The Early Intervention model was founded by Dr Juan Jover, Head of Rheumatology at hospital clinico San Carlos in Madrid, Spain. The programme ran for two year and assessed 3,300 workers with MSDs, resulting in a reduction by 39% of the sickness absence and by 50% of the permanent work disability related to MSDs. The cost-benefit analysis also revealed that there was recouped around €11 for each €1 invested in the pilot. Since then, 25 new Early Intervention programmes have open across Spain, retrieving similar results. With support from the Fit for Work Europe Coalition, EU countries such as the UK, Portugal and Latvia are now testing the programme, too.

 Early Intervention consists  of a rapid diagnosis and assessment, expert clinical management, restraint from bed rest, early mobilization, stretching exercises, ergonomic training, recommendations for physical activity, self-management and support for remaining in, or returning to work. The approach reduces the time of diagnosis, treatment and recovery improving patient outcomes and labour market participation, as well as savings to the health care and welfare systems.   

Minister Andriukaitis expressed his interest in Early Intervention at the Fit for Work Europe 2013 Summit in Brussels, where he had delivered a keynote presentation on behalf of the Lithuanian Presidency of the EU Council

The “Musculoskeletal diseases and workability” conference organised by the Lithuanian Fit for Work Coalition has also been covered by some local media outlets, such as Delfi.lt and Lzinios.lt.  

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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.” 

ENDS

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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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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Fit for Work in Europe

Monday, October 21st, 2013

The Fit for Work Coalition report, produced by The Work Foundation has found that Germany and UK have the worst sickness absence rates in Europe when it comes to muscular skeleton disorders (MSD). MSDs (including back pain, neck, shoulder and arm pains) are the leading cause of sickness absence across the EU, with 44m workers suffering, costing up to 240bn Euros in terms of lost productivity and sickness absence, representing 2% of GDP across the EU. MSDs are also linked to the next leading cause of absence, stress.  There is a great deal of research that MSDs can trigger stress and stress can be the underlying cause of back pain, etc.

It is urgent that we need to prevent and intervene early so that the predictions that 50% of the working population in the EU does not have these problems by the year 2030. There have been some really good examples of early interventions, particularly in Spain.  The Madrid Clinic did a two year study of intervening with people suffering from MSDs after 5 days of sickness among 13,000 workers and reduced temporary work absence by 39%. The report suggests that if there was only a 25% reduction in absence from an early intervention, 640,000 workers throughout the EU would be available for work.

This work is very important in both understanding, preventing and treating MSDs as well as workplace stress, where the number  of workers suffering are growing rapidly and is now the leading cause of incapacity benefit in the UK.  The Fit for Work Coalition and The Work Foundation should be congratulated for an outstanding report and a way forward.

Cary L. Cooper, CBE, is Distinguished Professor of Organizational Psychology and Health at Lancaster University in the UK and Chair of the Academy of Social Sciences.

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Good Health? Yes Minister – whatever your portfolio

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

It may sound trite, but the old saying that ‘every minister should be a Health Minister’ has never been more true than today. It’s obvious, to me at least, that ministers overseeing planning and transport policy, for example, should be thinking about the opportunities they have to help citizens walk or cycle safely. Finance Ministers should consider whether some citizens’ wellbeing is disproportionately compromised by austerity measures and Employment Ministers should routinely think about ways of helping those with chronic ill health or disabilities have access to fulfilling working lives if they aspire to them.

All sounds very utopian, doesn’t it? Yet if we are to develop more strategic and joined-up approaches to preventative public health, this is exactly the kind of thinking that we need to encourage among policymakers across all developed Western economies. The fact that we are doing everything we can to minimise, control and reduce healthcare costs is a sign of the austere and narrowly-focused times we live in and perhaps we should think more about where we ‘invest’ for longer term benefit rather than just cutting to hit a short-term budget target. Currently, spending on preventative healthcare across all EU member states represents only 3% of the total, while over 70% is spent on managing the care of people with chronic conditions – an increasing number of whom will be of working-age. Unless we find ways of investing in proactive and joined-up health initiatives which are about town planning, employment and public health, we will find that the much-celebrated capacity of our health system to treat people once they become ill will run out of resources.

This week in Brussels, The Work Foundation, through our Fit for Work Europe Coalition, is hosting a major summit on this very theme. Called Investing in Healthcare: Breaking down the Silos, endorsed by the Lithuanian Presidency of the EU and featuring contributions from eminent speakers such as Vytenis Andriukaitis, Health Minister, Lithuania,  Dr Roberto Bertolini of the World Health Organisation Europe; Dame Carol Black, Co-President of the Fit for Work Europe Coalition; Gianni Pittella, Vice-President, European Parliament  and Dr. F. Jesús Alvarez Hidalgo, Principal Administrator, Unit Heath, Safety and Hygiene at Work, DG EMPL,  European Commission  this event will highlight examples from across the EU of innovative thinking which suggests that a ‘Health in all policies’ approach may still be possible and certainly desirable.

Our specific interest in this event is to showcase what can happen if the health needs of people of working-age are prioritised so that they can benefit from quicker diagnosis, earlier interventions which allow them to remain active in the labour market and support from employers which allows them to access and flourish in good quality and secure jobs. We will hear examples from Latvia, Sweden, Ireland, Spain and Germany. We’ll also be challenging policymakers both in Brussels and in national governments to act now to break down policy thinking in silos which prevent joined-up and forward-looking action which just might stand a chance of defusing the public health time bomb which we all know is ticking away.

 

 

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Presentations from EU Presidency Conference

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Fit for Work Europe: Best Practice Sharing at EU Presidency Conference
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RA and Psychosocial Stress at Work

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

An interesting article caught my attention in Medical News Today which was titled “Can Psychosocial Stress At Work Put At Risk Of Developing Rheumatoid Arthritis?”.  It looks at a Swedish study published in one of the latest issues of ‘Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics’ which discloses new relationships between stress at work and the development of rheumatoid arthritis.
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