In 1998, health professionals involved in the care of patients with musculoskeletal conditions gathered at the invitation of Lars Lidgren, MD, PhD, professor of orthopaedics at the University Hospital in Lund, Sweden, and others in Lund with an ambitious goal: to do for musculoskeletal conditions what neuroscientists and others had accomplished with the Decade of the Brain 1990–2000.1 In their quest to educate world leaders on the increasing impact of musculoskeletal injuries and disorders, the consensus conference participants built on a landmark study conducted in 1993 by Harvard University in Boston and funded by the World Bank. Using disability-adjusted life-years, this Global Burden of Disease project quantified, for the first time, the true socioeconomic cost of chronic disease.2
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Explore This IssueNovember 2008
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The International Bone and Joint Decade (BJD), endorsed by the United Nations, was officially launched in January 2000 at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland. Eight years into its existence, the international initiative is actively partnering with the World Bank and the WHO, has the support of more than 750 national and international patient and scientific organizations and related journals, and carries out its work through National Action Networks (NANs) in over 60 countries. “The Bone and Joint Decade is like a beacon whose width increases daily,” says Wahid Al-Kharusi, MD, director of Khuola Hospital in Muscat, Oman, ambassador to the Foreign Ministry of Oman, and a member of the BJD International Steering Committee (ISC).
Although musculoskeletal conditions are the most common causes of severe long-term pain and disability, public policy makers have historically been more focused on acute and infectious illnesses. “The whole idea of trying to engage the public about a disease that doesn’t kill them is a real challenge,” notes Rowland W. Chang, MD, MPH, professor of preventive medicine, medicine (rheumatology), and physical medicine and rehabilitation at Northwestern University in Chicago.
“The BJD is unique in that it, for the first time, brought together patient and professional organizations from different musculoskeletal disciplines, alongside government and industry, in partnerships to develop and implement programs,” says Dr. Lidgren. “This teamwork enhances the ability of organizations to change the healthcare and research agenda to improve quality of life for the people affected.” Assisted by a small paid administrative staff, the BJD’s ISC, composed of volunteer professionals, chose to focus on some of the more prevalent of the 150 different musculoskeletal conditions: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, low back pain, spinal disorders, severe trauma to the extremities, and disabling conditions in children.