Back pain and arthritis costs more than $14 billion

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Research published in the Medical Journal of Australia today confirms that lost productivity due to back pain and arthritis currently costs Australia more than $14 billion a year and will grow to $22 billion by 2030 unless more is done to prevent and better manage these conditions.

“If the government genuinely wants to increase labour force participation, especially in older workers, then urgent improvements to care for people with back pain and arthritis are needed in the health system as well as targeted interventions to help them stay in the workforce,” says Ainslie Cahill, CEO of Arthritis Australia.

“This research shows that one third of the productivity loss due to chronic conditions overall is due to back pain and arthritis, but the impact of these conditions continues to be poorly recognised by government, industry and the community,” Cahill says.

“In addition to lost productivity, arthritis, back pain and related conditions come with a bill for the health and welfare systems of  around $10 billion a year, so you would think there was a huge incentive to invest in research and better care.

“Yet we know that arthritis and back pain continue to be poorly cared for in the health system and that arthritis receives far less research funding than nearly any other major chronic condition.

“Much of the pain and disability caused by arthritis could be prevented or reduced by providing better care for people as early as possible in the disease course, while simple workplace modifications can help people to stay in their job for longer.

“More research into prevention and better care is also critical,” Cahill says.

The MJA article follows on the heels of another study published last week which shows that a diagnosis of arthritis substantially increases the risk of falling into poverty, highlighting the impact on the individual as well as the public purse.

“There is an urgent need for people with arthritis, their carers, clinicians and Government to come together to address the gaps in care and ensure a national, unified approach is implemented. This will help to achieve consistent and top quality care, lessening the burden of disease as much as possible,” says Cahill.

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