“Clearly, the management of musculoskeletal pain is going to be something that we all have to address as a key urgency as our population ages,” she said.
She urged continued research into the prevalence of musculoskeletal disease burden and pain, but said collaboration is needed to make sure the data collected can be compared to data collected elsewhere.
“Without data, we don’t have disease,” she said. “We need the data collected in a standardized way.”
In Europe, 22% of the population either is currently experiencing, or has previously experienced, long-term muscle, bone and joint problems, such as rheumatism and arthritis, said Gerd Burmester, MD, president of the European League Against Rheumatism. And one in three people experience musculoskeletal pain that restricts activities of daily living, he said.4
Yet there is just one rheumatologist per 100,000 people in Europe, he said. And rheumatic disease will only become more common, he said.
“The burden will increase—changes in lifestyles may be responsible,” and of course, there’s the aging of the population with its accumulation of co-morbidities, Dr. Burmester said. “Physical fitness is decreasing. Obesity is increasing. Alcohol consumption is still excessive in many countries. Smoking is still a problem.” And “in many countries, the lack of rheumatologists is a severe problem.”
John Reveille, MD—immediate past president of the Pan-American League of Associations for Rheumatology—said a lack of good epidemiologic data is a problem in the Americas. Although data exist in the U.S., that is not the case throughout Latin America and South America.
Surveys conducted in 2012 and 2015 found that PANLAR members feel that a lack of governmental support for rheumatologic care and research is a top challenge, Dr. Reveille said. The biggest issue, though, members reported, is a lack of manpower, particularly in rural parts of countries and in pediatric rheumatology.
“The distribution of rheumatologists is mainly in the larger cities, and this is a big, big problem in the smaller countries, where access to care in rural populations [is continuing to worsen].”
Thomas R. Collins is a medical writer based in Florida.
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- Usenbo A, Kramer V, Young T, et al. Prevalence of arthritis in Africa: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2015 Aug 4;10(8):e0133858.
- Blyth FM, March LM, Brnabic AJ, et al. Chronic pain in Australia: A prevalence study. Pain. 2001 Jan;89(2-3):127–134.
- Global Burden of Disease Study 2013 Collaborators. Global, regional, and national incidence, prevalence, and years lived with disability for 301 acute and chronic diseases and injuries in 188 countries, 1990–2013: A systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013. Lancet. 2015 Aug 22;386(9995):743–800.
- European Commission. Health in the European Union: Special Eurobarometer 272e. September 2007.