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Dear Mr President, In response to your call to the European Parliament to examine ways in which the European Union might best respond to the global economic crisis, we would like to bring your attention to the fact that, in these times of austerity, one of the most striking increases in public expenditure has been in 1 disability payments. This is an issue of great concern, particularly given current EU priorities towards ensuring that the most vulnerable of workers do not lose contact with the labour market and drift into 2 inactivity. A group of conditions known as musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), account for a higher proportion of sickness absence from work than any other health condition, and thus have a significant effect not only on the quality of life of patients and their families but also on Governments and society through increased spending. We, as Presidents of the Fit for Work Europe Coalition, write to you today to call upon your support and action to address this pressing health and economic issue as a priority. The vision of Fit for Work Europe Coalition is to shift MSDs from disabling conditions to manageable conditions—and importantly to keep more of our citizens in work and improve the sustainability of Europe’s health and social systems. The burden of MSDs on European society has been estimated by the European Commission at up to 3 2% of gross domestic product. The Commission estimates that these chronic diseases account for half of all absences from work and for 60% of permanent work incapacity. They result in more 4 sickness absence than stress and cost European countries around 240 billion euros annually. Research conducted by The Work Foundation in the UK demonstrates that Member States can best address MSDs through prevention, early detection, appropriate intervention and better management of the varied conditions, but MSDs must be prioritized in Brussels and in Member State capitals (Please visit www.fitforworkeurope.eu for more information and research prepared by Fit for Work). The Fit for Work Europe Coalition therefore asks you, European and national policymakers to recognize MSDs as a health priority at all levels, including DG SANCO and DG EMPL, and to recommend that Member States develop national action plans to improve prevention and management of MSDs. We, as Presidents of the Coalition and on behalf of our members and supporters, urgently call upon you and your colleagues within DG SANCO and DG EMPL to consider MSDs as a priority. If this health and economic issue is not appropriately addressed, the socioeconomic burden of MSDs will only increase as the population ages and as obesity increases.
OECD Employment Outlook 2009: Tackling the Jobs Crisis Resolution on EU Employment Guidelines (September 2010) 3 Cammarota, A (2005). The Commission’s initiative on MSDs: Recent developments in social partner consultation at the European level. 4 European Commission (2007)
The Fit for Work Europe Coalition 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 Bone and Joint Decade, EULAR and RAND Europe, and a broad range of stakeholders. The Fit for Work Europe Coalition is supported by an ongoing grant from Abbott--a founding partner--and a supporting grant from GE Healthcare.
Attending to the problem of MSDs would not only help to significantly improve the quality of life of patients and their families but will also boost work productivity in Member States. This is an important cost benefit value, especially in light of the economic crisis and in helping to improve the sustainability of Member States’ healthcare systems. We thank you kindly for your consideration and attention in helping us make Europe Fit for Work. Should you need additional information and data, we remain ready to discuss at your disposal. Thank you. Yours sincerely,
Mrs Antonyia Parvanova, Member of the European Parliament Co-President, Fit for Work Europe Coalition
Mr Stephen Bevan, Managing Director, The Work Foundation Founding President, Fit for Work Europe Coalition
Dame Professor Carol Black, National Director for Health & Work, Chairman of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges & Chairman of the Nuffield Trust Co-President, Fit for Work Europe Coalition
Professor Paul Emery, Professor of Rheumatology of Molecular Medicine, University of Leeds, President of EULAR (European League Against Rheumatism) Co-President, Fit for Work Europe Coalition