United States hosts world Bone and Joint Decade conference
More than 325 Bone and Joint Decade delegates from 56 countries met in Washington, D.C., in late October 2009 to educate U.S. lawmakers and international diplomats about the growing burden of musculoskeletal disease. Hosted by the U.S. Bone and Joint Decade, (USBJD), the multi-disciplinary Global Network Conference also addressed the question, “What’s next after the decade ends?”
During facilitated strategic planning sessions, the delegates addressed what has already been accomplished and what still needs to be done in the following six key areas:
- inflammatory conditions
- back pain
- bone health and osteoporosis
“We had real luminaries in their respective fields,” said USBJD President Joshua J. Jacobs, MD, “and their presentations of current issues were at a very high level. The conference exceeded my expectations—it was a real shining moment for the USBJD.”
Meeting with Congressional representatives
In addition to dozens of orthopaedic surgeons and many other healthcare professionals, more than 80 patients from the United States and around the world attended the conference and met with embassy officials and members of Congress.
“The Capitol Hill visits were very timely, given ongoing debate on healthcare reform,” Dr. Jacobs said. “We stressed the patients’ need for access to specialty care, raised the awareness of the burden of musculoskeletal disease, and stressed that investments in research can mitigate the impact of that burden in the future.”
“The conference, and in particular Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill, attained a much higher profile than we had anticipated,” said Toby King, executive director of the USBJD.
“Government affairs representatives from several participating organizations worked together to plan Advocacy Day,” Mr. King said. “They very quickly agreed on the need for core messages about broad musculoskeletal health goals. These messages gave delegates a focus for their visits with congressional leaders. Afterward, participants said that the training and experience on Capitol Hill was excellent; even experienced advocates said they benefited from the training, which was led by the AAOS office of government relations.”
After the training session, delegates heard from Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, and John A. Barrasso, MD (R-Wyo.), the only orthopaedic surgeon serving in the Senate. Afterward, the delegates and patients called on lawmakers and embassy officials.
“It was interesting to see our own data on the burden of musculoskeletal diseases being sent back to us by a Health Department official,” noted participant Anthony Woolf, MBBS, FRCP.
A decade of work, years of planning
“Planning for the conference took place over 2 years,” said Conference Co-chair Stuart L. Weinstein, MD, a former USBJD and AAOS president. “Our main purpose was to give the participants an advocacy experience—to teach them to become advocates for increased funding for prevention and research to reduce the burden of musculoskeletal disease.
“We highlighted what had been gained over the first 9 years of the decade,” he continued, “with respect to new information on the burden of disease (the cornerstone of the decade), the significant advances that have been made since 2000 to reduce that burden, and the promise of the future in further reducing the burden of musculoskeletal disease.
“We also celebrated a major advocacy success story—the adoption of the Ponseti method for treatment of clubfeet,” said Dr. Weinstein. “This significant success was driven by parents of children with clubfoot and changed the way doctors around the world treat the condition. Instead of surgery as the mainstay of treatment, the nonsurgical Ponseti method is being used in both developed and developing countries—a truly amazing story.”
In his keynote speech, Stephen I. Katz, MD, PhD, director of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, congratulated the USBJD’s Young Investigator program. The program, which teaches young investigators in multiple disciplines how to improve their research strategies as well as their grant applications, “has clearly been a success,” said Dr. Katz, generating more than $35 million in research grants to program participants. He urged conference participants to collaborate on new research to address the burden of musculoskeletal disease, estimated at $849 billion per year in 2004.
A roadmap for the future
A final goal of the conference was to create a roadmap for the future, beyond the decade, both in the United States and around the world. The global Bone and Joint Decade ends in 2010; the USBJD runs through 2011.
“We held strategic planning sessions in the six main topical areas and then developed world regional planning sessions,” said Dr. Weinstein. These sessions included all the stakeholders—from patients and advocates to healthcare providers and researchers.
“The Decade,” said Dr. Jacobs, “appreciates both the financial and individual support of the AAOS and its leaders. Orthopaedic surgeons—including AAOS President Joseph D. Zuckerman, MD; Kristy L. Weber, MD, chair of the Council on Research, Quality Assessment, and Technology; and AAOS members such as Bruce D. Browner, MD, and Gunnar B.J. Andersson, MD—played a huge role in the meeting. AAOS staff members—both in Washington, D.C., and in Rosemont—were also key contributors to this complex, important meeting.”
Mark W. Wieting is the AAOS chief education officer. He can be reached at email@example.com