The action plan was welcomed by WCPT at the 66th session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe in Copenhagen. Photo: WHO
The action plan was welcomed by WCPT at the 66th session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe in Copenhagen. Photo: WHO

World Health Organisation recognises importance of musculoskeletal health in combatting disease across Europe

A new WHO action plan has highlighted the importance of promoting musculoskeletal health in preventing noncommunicable diseases across Europe.

The plan, approved on 15th September, acknowledges that musculoskeletal conditions are the greatest cause of disability in the European region, leading to workplace absences and a loss of independence in older age.

“WCPT welcomes the recommendations,” says WCPT Chief Executive Officer Jonathon Kruger. “For the first time the WHO has recognised that countries must take action to decrease the burden arising from musculoskeletal disease. Good musculoskeletal health is critical to good physical health. Good physical health is a prerequisite to people living life to their full potential.”

The plan recommends promoting MSK health to people of all ages through school initiatives and integration with occupational health programmes. The plan also highlights the importance of systematic MSK programmes for older people including those in residential care, with an emphasis on early intervention and self-management.

“Physical therapists are crucial in providing early intervention and rehabilitation services,” says Mr Kruger. “In healthcare systems across the world, physical therapists are uniquely positioned to promote mobility and good health. Physical therapy organisations are ready to support the development of national plans to improve musculoskeletal health.”

Roland Paillex, president of the Swiss Association of Physiotherapy, has welcomed the plan at a WHO regional committee meeting in Copenhagen. “Physiotherapists can encourage greater physical activity and empower people to exercise within any limitation they may have,” he said. “Many work in extended roles and save health services significant financial resources.”

In many countries direct access to physical therapy allows patients to access MSK services in a timely way, creating the chance for early intervention and minimizing the risk of functional impairment. Across the world, at least 40 WCPT member organisations report that direct access and self-referral is permitted in their countries.

The Global Alliance for Musculoskeletal Health, who work with the WHO globally and regionally, have called upon all countries in the European region to embrace the plan. They have also called for an extension to ensure that the importance of musculoskeletal health is recognized worldwide.

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