Physiotherapy New Zealand is welcoming a new report entitled Fit for Work, that calls for a focus on early detection and intervention for the one in four New Zealanders suffering from musculoskeletal disorders, to ensure they can continue working.
The report says musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) such as arthritis, cost the country more than $5.5 billion each year. They are also the leading cause of disability and are the second largest category of conditions resulting in sickness and invalid benefits.
"We fully support this report’s call for early detection, intervention and the referral to appropriate care, such as physiotherapists and occupational therapists," says Physiotherapy New Zealand President Gill Stotter.
"As physios we work to identify issues and risk factors and then help people return to their normal activities, including working, as soon as possible. Our role is to educate people on what can be done to help as often we can alleviate people’s fears through education and understanding."
"The longer people are away from work the harder it is for them to return, this is why we need to offer help and support as early as possible."
"We also refer on to other health professionals when appropriate. The number of people with MSDs is predicted to soar, so it is vital that we work together as a healthcare team that is patient focused."
Ms Stotter says the report highlights the financial impact on the country and the need for cost effective treatment.
The report notes that MSDs comprise over 25% of total annual health costs.
"Research has shown physiotherapy is a cost-effective option for MSDs, it can help reduce the amount of medication needed, the time of work, and the need for hospital admissions."
Ms Stotter says Physiotherapy New Zealand agrees with the report on the need for a National Action Plan to raise awareness about the impact of these conditions and for a collaborative approach to manage MSDs.
The impact of MSDs on the New Zealand Workforce
- MSDs affect nearly 1 in 4 adults in New Zealand.
- In 2010 15.2% of New Zealanders aged 15 and over were living with at least one type of arthritis. By 2020 the prevalence of arthritis is expected to reach 16.9%, which is equivalent to 120,000 people. Rheumatoid Arthritis is the second most common form of arthritis in New Zealand, affecting 3.5% of the population. In 2008 this was equivalent to more than 149,000 people.
- The odds of participating in the labour force in New Zealand are 31.5% lower for those people with a chronic condition, such an MSD. In 2005, for example, 25,440 people were not participating in the labour market because of their arthritis.
- In 2009/2010 the Accident Compensation Corporation of New Zealand (ACC) spent NZ$147,452,564 on work-related musculoskeletal entitlement claims.
- At the end of 2010 14.5% of all accepted claims for sickness benefit and 11.7% of all accepted claims for invalid’s benefit were for MSDs. Behind psychological and psychiatric conditions, MSDs represented the second largest category of conditions resulting in claims for sickness benefit.
- The direct cost of work-related injuries and disease (which are thought to be largely made up of MSDs) to the New Zealand economy was between 4 and 8% of GDP in 2002.
The report was commissioned by healthcare firm Abbott Laboratories and carried out by researchers at Britain’s Lancaster University.
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