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Fit For Work EuropeThe Work Foundation

Fit EU Blog

Discourse on work and wellbeing in the EU

Posts Tagged ‘Rheumatoid Arthritis’

Ageing, Health and Work: The Need for True Grit

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

 

Prof Stephen Bevan, Founding President of Fit for Work Europe

Prof Stephen Bevan, Founding President of Fit for Work Europe

 

This week I had the pleasure of attending the first Uppsala Health Summit in the beautiful University City of Uppsala in Sweden. The theme of the conference was ageing and health and I was invited to speak on behalf of the Fit for Work Europe Coalition.

The event, hosted by the University of Uppsala, was first addressed by Mr Ulf Kristersson, Sweden’s Minister for Social Security who presented some compelling data about demographics in Sweden. Among other things, he explained that the data on ageing among the Swedish population also masked a significant reduction in inequality in life expectancy. While an inequality gap still exists Sweden has succeeded in reducing some of the negative impact of the main social determinants of ill-health.

Later in the day I presented as part of a panel session on the use of technology, diagnostics and screening to improve health outcomes for older people. My focus was on the need to regard early diagnosis and early intervention for musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) as an investment rather than a cost, especially if the outcomes had a wider societal value (such as the ability to remain in work). I used the example of narrow policy and financial silos which, in the case of rheumatoid arthritis in the UK, the economic case for NHS investment in early treatment was made very forcibly by the National Audit Office (NAO) back in 2009. Despite this, the NHS has not prioritised early intervention, thereby forgoing the threefold return on investment in labour productivity which the NAO economic model predicted. One participant at the conference likened this example to the annual debate in Sweden about the cost of gritting roads and pavements. Local authorities are under pressure to minimise the cost of gritting, but the health system then has to bear the cost of older Swedes suffering injuries, fractures and trauma from slips and falls on icy surfaces. As the delegate concluded, the evidence that gritting is cost-effective is clear, but politicians choose to pursue short-term savings instead of doing ‘the right thing’.

I argued that the judicious use of diagnostic technologies and medical interventions which can help older workers with chronic conditions to remain active and at work – especially if this was good quality work – would enhance the health of individuals and improve workforce productivity. In addition, I reminded delegates that a high proportion (up to 65%) of working age people with MSDs are the main income earner in their household and that having to leave the labour market prematurely as a result of poor health can have dire financial consequences for individuals and their families. My plea to the conference was to ensure that healthcare decision-makers routinely consider that remaining in work might be a clinically and socially desirable outcome for older patients and that, as we all have to work longer and retire later, this consideration will become a necessity rather than an optional extra.

In many ways, the resolution to this dilemma lies in being clear about both who pays for these interventions and who stands to benefit. As we heard at our Fit for Work Summit in October 2013, it is possible for different parts of the system (eg Health & Social Security) to share both the costs and the benefits of joined-up interventions rather than just opting for the cheapest, short-term option. As one delegate suggested, our politicians have a democratic mandate to make common-sense decisions where spending leads to savings. It is a shame, he reflected, that so few have the political bravery to put these principles into practice – especially as so many stand to benefit.

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Iles Braghetto, Member of European Parliament 2004 – 2009

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

Last week saw the publication of our report into the Italian labour market. In this video, Iles Braghetto (MEP 2004-2009, EPP-ED, Italy) talks about the social and economic importance (more…)

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Steve Bevan: A great day for FfW in the UK

Friday, May 15th, 2009

An exciting – and busy –  month for Fit for Work.  The Work Foundation hosted an panel discussion at the international Health Technology Assessment conference in Singapore on 23rd June: the panellists were all engaged and the debate was excellent (I had to call it to a close, and it could have run on). We had about 35 people in attendance and I think that what we achieved was to get a serious debate about work productivity on the agenda at an event where it is almost invisible.  (more…)

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Fit for Work Goes to Turkey

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

The Fit for Work project is examining the labour market status of people with musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) from across many countries. Last week I had the pleasure of visiting Turkey to conduct a series of interviews with eminent Turkish academics and clinicians in both Istanbul and Ankara.
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Aching joints: Are musculoskeletal disorders undermining a productive and competitive European workforce?

Sunday, April 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.

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