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7th Congress of the European Federation of National Associations of Orthopaedics and Traumatology, Lisbon - 4-7 June, 2005


The number of people suffering from pain or limitation of daily activities as a result of conditions related to the musculoskeletal system is increasing in Europe and worldwide. It is therefore essential to develop strategies to prevent both the occurrence of these conditions and the impact of these conditions.

Most musculoskeletal conditions occur in the elderly and as the elderly population will reach above 20% within the next 20 years this will further augment the problem within Europe, particularly as these conditions also increase with advancing age. It must be recognized that at most levels within the health care systems or within society, the impact of these conditions today and for the future is underestimated, both regarding number and regarding consequences; disability, handicap, social implications and costs. The major challenge is, however, not to make recommendations for preventive strategies but to implement them in order to secure a change, leading to improved care and improved quality of life for patient, regardless of age.

The first step in order to make a change is to define the size of the problem – the burden of musculoskeletal conditions. With respect to the incidence and prevalence the size of the problem is relatively well known. The size of the problem when it comes to the impact on the individual is less well known, as is the burden in terms of economic and societal costs. For many conditions the risk factors are identified and common to many conditions.

The second step involves evidence – evidence for the effectiveness of the interventions available today. When evaluating evidence it is useful to define population in terms of the normal or healthy population, those at risk, those at early or moderate stage and those at late stage of the condition since this will translate into preventive strategies appropriate for each level.

The final step is implementation and this is the major challenge at all levels, from policies trying to influence the entire population to adopt a healthier life style, to change the management of the individual patient in the doctor’s office. Based on knowledge of size and evidence, it is possible to transform recommendations into an actual action plan at national, regional and local levels. The principles for successful implementations are to a large extent similar for all levels.

The tools for success need to be identified and they may include financial or economic mechanisms, regulatory mechanisms, and educational or organisational mechanisms. It is particularly important to identify barriers and facilitators that will influence the outcome of the proposed strategy.

Musculoskeletal conditions have many risk factors and interventions in common with other conditions that affect public health, such as diabetes and cardiovascular conditions. In primary prevention it is therefore key to collaborate not only within the musculoskeletal field but also with other fields in order to improve also musculoskeletal health.

Theses abstracts were prepared by Professor Roger Lemaire. Correspondence should be addressed to EFORT Central Office, Freihofstrasse 22, CH-8700 Küsnacht, Switzerland.