The members of the National Caucus on Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Health Disparities, sponsored by Movement Is Life, gathered in Washington, D.C.


Published 1/1/2016
Laura Bruse Gehrig, MD

MIL Caucus Addresses Musculoskeletal Disparities

On Nov. 12–13, 2015, the 6th annual National Caucus on Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Health Disparities, sponsored by Movement Is Life (MIL), was held in Washington, D.C. Since its inception in 2010, MIL has focused on improving the musculoskeletal health outcomes of those disproportionately impacted by knee osteoarthritis: women of all racial/ethnic backgrounds, African-Americans, and Latinos/Hispanics.

The 2-day event highlighted past and ongoing activities that identify, test, and then deliver programs that make measureable progress on critical factors that drive musculoskeletal disparities. Beginning with reflections on health and wellness by Maria Hinojosa, Emmy Award-winning news correspondent and host of "America by the Numbers with Maria Hinojosa," the conference explored ways to reduce the impact of musculoskeletal conditions in a variety of contexts.

Discussions and workshops leveraged the strong diversity of the participants: orthopaedic surgeons, primary care physicians, nurses, community and religious leaders, insurance industry representatives, and policy makers. Workshops focused on health literacy and cultural competence, use of social media to enhance community outreach, and ways to identify and address unconscious bias.

"Health care continues to rapidly change and challenge the orthopaedic profession. With alternative payment models linked to patient outcome measures and now mandated for hip and knee arthroplasty in specific geographic regions, the need to understand and address differences in patient populations is paramount to success in a value-driven episode of care," said MIL Caucus Chair Mary I. O'Connor, MD.

"Simply stated, some groups of patients have different outcomes and different levels of risk associated with surgical treatment. These disparities will influence the degree of success of a bundled episode of care," she explained. "With changing demographics, particularly the significant increase in the Latino/Hispanic population, proactive orthopaedic surgeons and practices need to understand such disparities and create a process to decrease their impact on outcomes."

The take-home message
Although disparities are a complex issue, orthopaedic practices can take steps to improve outcomes of their female, African-American, and Latino/Hispanic patients. Free educational materials produced by Zimmer/Biomet for MIL can be used to raise patient awareness of the critical relationship between movement and knee arthritis. These materials can complement the Academy's own patient education resources; OrthoInfo, the AAOS patient education website, includes a number of articles in Spanish and Portuguese

Patient stories, similar to those on the AAOS A Nation in Motion website, are available on an MIL video. They show how lack of movement leads to progressive obesity, knee osteoarthritis, and the development of comorbid conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and depression. The video can be shown in an office reception room or patients can view it on their own on the Start Moving Start Living website. All materials on the website may be downloaded at no charge, or ordered from MIL.

Comments and suggestions on how MIL can better assist orthopaedic surgeons and their practices in combating musculoskeletal healthcare disparities related to knee osteoarthritis are welcome. Please contact me at or Dr. O'Connor at

Laura Bruse Gehrig, MD, chairs the AAOS Women's Health Issues Advisory Board. Dr. O'Connor chairs the Movement is Life Caucus and receives honoraria from Zimmer Biomet, Inc. for her associated consulting efforts. She also chairs the AAOS Diversity Advisory Board.