COPENHAGEN, June 12 /PRNewswire/ --

- New Advice to Support the 100 Million People in the EU who Suffer From Chronic Musculoskeletal Disorders

Researchers, doctors and patient groups will today call on rheumatologists and related healthcare professionals to view their patients as productive workers and make their staying in work an important outcome in managing their condition. Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) in Europe account for 50% of all work-related disorders and 60% of permanent work incapacity in the EU.

At a Symposium, entitled Fighting Musculoskeletal Diseases to keep the European population Fit for Work, and part of the 2009 congress of the European League Against Rheumatism in Copenhagen, delegates will hear a range of evidence showing that early intervention and effective management of MSDs improves work ability and benefits individuals, society and the economies they live in. Indeed, in Western Europe, the majority of costs for lower back pain, ankylosing spondylitis and rheumatoid arthritis are in fact indirect costs, i.e. in measures such as lost work productivity. The Symposium is being hosted by The Work Foundation, an independent think tank, as part of a research project called Fit for Work.

The Fit for Work initiative acknowledges the therapeutic value of work for patients, and now, advances in therapies permit the ability for work to be used as a measurable outcome of treatment, said Paul Emery, Professor of Rheumatology, University of Leeds, UK, and a member of The Work Foundation's Fit for Work advisory board.

The session is chaired by Prof Ronald van Vollenhoven, chief of the Clinical Research Unit in the Department of Rheumatology at the Karolinska University Hospital, Sweden, and looks at clinical evidence for effective intervention in maintaining and restoring work ability. Stephen Bevan, Managing Director of The Work Foundation, presents initial European Fit for Work findings on labour market participation. A panel discussion follows, examining clinical work and its link to crucial changes in health policy needed to support patients as citizen-workers. Prof van Vollenhoven will then call for rheumatologists to take specific action to make Europe Fit for Work, urging delegates to:

- Encourage patients to demand the right to early detection and treatment of their conditions so they can be Fit for Work - Partner with employers to think beyond 'health and safety risks' to protect and promote the health and wellbeing of their workers - Engage with policymakers to align national and EU health and work agendas so that citizen/patients are healthy and can remain in work ...and perhaps most importantly... - Make patients' being Fit for Work an important clinical goal

The panellists, from across Europe, include: - Dr Berit Schiottz Christensen, rheumatologist and President of the Danish Society of Rheumatology - John Church, CEO of Arthritis Ireland - Maarten de Wit, a Dutch national and Vice President of EULAR/PARE representing People with Arthritis/Rheumatism in Europe - Dr Tom Ling, Director of Evaluation and Audit, RAND Europe - Dr Tuulikki Sokka, rheumatologist, Jyvaskyla Central Hospital, Finland and one of the lead investigators on the QUEST-RA study.

About Musculoskeletal Disorders

Musculoskeletal disorders is an umbrella term covering over 200 conditions that affect the muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments, peripheral nerves and supporting blood vessels, causing pain and functional impairment to sufferers (Punnett et al, 2004).

About The Work Foundation

The Work Foundation is a UK not-for-profit organisation that through research, consultancy and advocacy aims to improve the quality of working life. Working with both public sector and private sector organisations, it offers a distinctive mix of practical consultancy, robust research and campaigning on policy issues. It also runs a major programme of research and consultancy around Health and Wellbeing issues.

About the Fit for Work initiative

The Work Foundation's Fit for Work project is supported by a research grant from Abbott, the global, broad-based healthcare company. Fit for Work reports are produced independently by The Work Foundation, with full editorial control resting with The Work Foundation alone.

The Work Foundation's research, conducted with the support of RAND Europe and endorsed by the United Nation's Bone and Joint Decade is examining four conditions and their impact on labour market participation in detail:

- Back pain: a non-specific condition (no specific diagnosis) usually involving short episodes of pain. - Work-related upper limb disorders: Also non-specific and affecting people. - Rheumatoid arthritis: It is estimated that almost a quarter of sufferers stop work within five years of diagnosis. - Spondyloarthropathies: progressive and chronic rheumatic disorders mainly affecting the spine, but also other joints, tendons and ligaments.

Notes to editors

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For more information, visit or contact Jenny Taylor of The Work Foundation on +44-20-7976-3519 or

For more information, contact Jenny Taylor of The Work Foundation on +44-20-7976-3519 or