European and National Leaders, Health and Work Experts, Call for National Action Plans to Address Muscle and Joint Pain in Europe

By Fit For Work Europe Coalition, PRNE
Tuesday, October 18, 2011

BRUSSELS, October 19, 2011 -

Muscle and joint pain costs workers and economies up to €240 billion a year, but few countries have plans or infrastructures to keep people in work

Lech Walesa, former President of Poland, Nobel Peace Prize Winner 1983, agrees to become global Fit for Work Ambassador 

“We must fight internationally to improve the lives of those living - and working - with pain.  But only coordinated action at national level will keep workers well enough to participate fully in society, including being able to stay in jobs they have worked hard to get,” he says to Conference.

Today, politicians, patients and health and work experts of the Fit for Work Europe Coalition added their voices to national advocates from across Europe for their countries to take bold steps to reduce the staggering €240 billion[1] economic burden of chronic musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) to European society.

Please click on the following link to access the Multimedia News Release:

Attending the 3rd Annual Fit for Work Europe Conference, the honourable Lech Walesa, former President of Poland, and new global Fit for Work Ambassador said, “One hundred million Europeans suffer with a chronic MSD - over 40 million of whom are workers - with up to 40% having to give up work due to their condition.  This is unacceptable in the 21st century, when simple things such as earlier intervention and coordinated care at national level can make such a difference to people living with MSDs.”

The Fit for Work Europe Coalition conference also highlighted the latest research showing the growing impact of MSDs in Europe’s ageing population - for example, nearly half (49%) of all absences from work and 60% of permanent work incapacity in the European Union is caused by MSDs, and a over a quarter of the working population report work-related back pain.[2,3] Important national statistics on current prevalence and impact of MSDs were reported to the Conference and can be seen in detail online.

Effective policy and practice change at national level will only be the result of a unified evidence-based approach to the management of MSDs, delegates heard.  Specifically, national MSD action plans must:

  • Make MSDs a national public health priority, along with other serious chronic conditions
  • Allocate adequate funding for early intervention and treatment of MSDs
  • Establish ’staying in work’ as a valid clinical measure of successful management of MSDs
  • Advocate including work productivity (i.e., societal costs) in health economic/health technology assessments

“Today, we know the European Union, via its institutional support for the activities of Fit for Work Europe, acknowledges the impact of MSDs on our economies and the need for actions to be taken.  Now, we must focus our efforts on supporting national governments, helping them to make the case for making MSDs  and the health of the working population  a priority in their health systems, to improve outcomes in health and work,” said Mrs Antonia Parvanova, the MEP host of the  summit  in Brussels, and a co-president of the Coalition. “Only then will we effectively support those citizens living with chronic pain.”

The European Parliament has also taken note of the efforts of Fit for Work Europe.  Commenting on the Coalition’s work to date and the third annual Conference, President of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek said, “Partnerships such as Fit for Work Europe are excellent examples of how the EU and Member States may work together to achieve ambitious goals.  EU Institutions, specifically, those of us in the European Parliament support the efforts of Fit for Work to ensure every Member States has the evidence and ultimately the resources to make MSDs a health priority.”

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Notes to Editors

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 Fit for Work Europe

Fit for Work Europe works to promote a multi-stakeholder dialogue on musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) to drive clinical practice and health and work policy that will improve the quality of working life for people with MSDs. Fit for Work is a partnership of organizations and individuals, and enjoys the patronage of The Work Foundation, the UN’s Bone and Joint Decade, the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) and RAND Europe, and the support of a broad range of stakeholders, including the European Agency for Social Inclusion, the European Federation of Nurses Associations, Association Internationale de la Mutualité, Enterprise for Health, Arthritis Ireland, Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, UniEuropa and more joining every month.  The Fit for Work Europe Coalition is supported by an ongoing grant from Abbott - a founding partner -and a supporting grant from GE Healthcare.

About the Fit for Work Europe Coalition

The Fit for Work Coalition is a unique coming together of patients, physicians, policy makers and society representatives, all of whom believe in the importance of early detection, prevention and management of MSDs in the workplace. Their vision is to shift MSDs from disabling conditions to manageable conditions, ensuring that more European citizens stay in work, and help improve the sustainability of Europe’s health and social systems. Specifically the Coalition aims to:

  • Provide active leadership in making MSDs a health and work priority at EU and national level
  • Set the working activities to support clinical, economic and policy projects in support of the FfW objectives
  • Continually provide robust evidence base to support Fit for Work vision, of early intervention with appropriate treatment
  • Share best practices in national settings and adapt successful initiatives for implementation at national level, with the goal of creating national plans for MSDs in every country

Fit for Work reports and position papers have been produced independently by founder organisation The Work Foundation, with full editorial control resting with them alone. For information and the opportunity to comment/blog/share your experience on making Europe Fit for Work, go to and follow us on Twitter (@FfWEurope)

1. The Fit for Work research found that MSDs cost the EU from 0.5%-2% of GDP annually.  EU27 GDP in 2007 was €12.3 trillion.  A loss of 2% is approximately €240bn. Figures calculated from Europe in Figures - Eurostat yearbook 2009, published 18 Sept 2009.

2. Fit for Work? Musculoskeletal Disorders in the European Workforce. The Work Foundation.  Brussels, 30 Sept 2009.

3. Maximising Employment and Social Inclusion, a Fit for Work Europe Data Briefing Paper, 19 Oct 2011



For press information please contact Tara Farrell at the Fit for Work Secretariat on +32-(0)2-894-9027 or tfarrell at .

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