Published 2/1/2013

BJD Measures Global Burden of Disease

Landmark study shows impact of musculoskeletal conditions

Musculoskeletal conditions are the second greatest cause of disability globally according to a report by international experts, published in The Lancet (Dec. 15, 2012). The first comprehensive study of the worldwide impact of all diseases and risk factors found that musculoskeletal conditions such as arthritis and back pain affect more than 1.7 billion people worldwide and have the fourth greatest impact on the overall health of the world population, considering both death and disability.

According to Professor Anthony Woolf, chair of the Bone and Joint Decade (BJD) International Coordinating Council, “Across the world, health policy has ignored diseases that affect the quality of lives and the independence of people living with them. It is time to place a priority on dealing with this enormous burden from arthritis, back pain and other musculoskeletal conditions to prevent unnecessary pain and disability. These data justify what the BJD has been campaigning for during the past 10 years.”

The report notes that the burden of musculoskeletal disease has increased by 45 percent over the past 20 years and will continue to do so unless action is taken. It provides indisputable evidence that musculoskeletal conditions are an enormous and emerging problem in all parts of the world and need to be given the same priority for policy and resources as other major conditions like cancer, mental health, and cardiovascular disease.

The authors of the study say that “health systems will need to address the needs of the rising numbers of individuals with a range of conditions that largely cause disability, not mortality.”

Key facts

  • As a group, musculoskeletal disorders cause 21.3 percent of all years lived with disability, second only to mental and behavioral disorders.
  • The main contributors are low back pain, neck pain, and osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis of the knee accounts for 83 percent of the osteoarthritis total.
  • The leading cause of disability worldwide is low back pain, which affects more than 632 million people.
  • Osteoarthritis is the fastest increasing major health condition. This relates to aging of the population, increased obesity, and lack of physical activity.
  • Disability due to musculoskeletal conditions can be effectively prevented by currently available interventions such as accident prevention, modern treatment of arthritis and injuries, and rehabilitation.

Call for action
Despite the huge personal, social, and economic impact of rheumatic and musculoskeletal conditions, policymakers have not made them a priority.

“Since the launch in 2000, the BJD has done much to change priorities by identifying the effect these conditions have on people and on society,” said Professor Woolf. “Now we need action by policymakers to prioritize preventing and treating these conditions to avoid people having unnecessary disability and pain.”

The BJD is calling for action by the World Health Organization, the United Nations, and by national governments. It is urging countries to develop explicit plans that respond to the results of the Global Burden of Disease 2010 report and the new ranking, which shows that musculoskeletal conditions have an enormous and growing impact in all regions of the world.

The BJD is a global alliance promoting musculoskeletal health by bringing together all stakeholders, considering all musculoskeletal conditions, and working with policymakers at national, regional, and global levels. Launched in 2000, and remandated in 2010, the BJD brings together national and international professional, scientific, and patient organizations and is focused on influencing health policy through evidence and advocacy, using its unified voice and global reach.

For more information, visit www.boneandjointdecade.org