New report aims to make musculoskeletal health a global priority

An international research team has found that despite being the leading global cause of pain, disability, and health care spending, the prevention and management of musculoskeletal health, including conditions such as low back pain , fractures, arthritis and osteoporosis, are globally under-prioritized has developed an action plan to fill this gap.

In response to a targeted call from the Global Alliance for Musculoskeletal Health (G-MUSC) based at the University of Sydney, an international team of researchers mapped the current global landscape for the prevention and management of musculoskeletal health, identified health policy trends and developed a blueprint to prioritize musculoskeletal health reform efforts in eight key areas.

Professor Lyn March, Faculty of Medicine and Health and the Kolling Institute, said the blueprint was structured around areas critical for health systems reform, including community education; leadership and governance; health financing models; service delivery models that support integrated and people-centered care; equitable access to medicines and technologies; build the capacity of health workers to provide the right care at the right time; population health surveillance; and research and innovation.

“Each area is supported by detailed actions and priorities that countries can choose to adopt to strengthen the capacity of their health systems,” said Professor March.

“It is important to note that the plan is informed by people who work in all areas of health and, most importantly, by people with lived experience of musculoskeletal disorders.

“This plan is practical and can indicate what a global strategic response might look like and how countries can respond to musculoskeletal health in order to stop the growing global burden of disability and costs. ”

Project leader Professor Andrew Briggs of Curtin University said more than 1.5 billion people were living with musculoskeletal disease in 2019, 84% more than in 1990, and despite many “Calls to action” and an ever-aging population systems continue to fail to prioritize these conditions and their rehabilitation demands.

“One of the factors limiting reform efforts is that no strategic global response to the burden of disability has been developed – so far. This new data-driven initiative will be essential in guiding global work on health reform, such as that undertaken by the World Health Organization, ”said Professor Briggs.

“Addressing musculoskeletal health requires more than just healthcare reform – it requires interdepartmental prioritization, cooperation and collaboration with industry, transportation and the built environment. ”

The plan was developed with input from a panel of nearly 700 stakeholders from 72 countries, representing 116 organizations.

Research has revealed that guidance at the global level, such as that from the World Health Organization, is needed for country-level responses on musculoskeletal health. Today’s report provides this guidance which can be adapted to local needs and priorities.

The researchers said the work would now be reviewed by agencies such as the WHO and widely shared among countries, organizations and disciplines to integrate musculoskeletal health with other health reform initiatives.

The international team of researchers comes from: University of Sydney; Kolling Institute; Curtin University; University of Toronto; Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, University of Kathmandu and University of Southern Denmark.

Two research papers will be published in Global Health Research and Policy and BMJ Global Health and the resulting report, “Towards a Global Strategy to Improve Musculoskeletal Health,” published today.

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