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Sunday April 24, 2005

A worldwide joint declaration

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan announced in 1999 that the World Health Organization (WHO) was declaring the years 2000-2010 the ďBone and joint decadeĒ. The initiative was proposed to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment of patients with bone and joint disease (musculoskeletal diseases) and advance research at the same time as well as reduce the financial and social cost exacted by such diseases. 

The purpose of the initiative is to improve the quality of life of people with bone and joint diseases and injuries worldwide by raising awareness and understanding of the importance of these severe conditions and increasing the amount of research funding. 

It aims to help keep people moving by promoting the prevention and treatment of musculoskeletal disorders. 

The initiative has gained the support of more than 750 national and international patient and scientific organisations, and related journals. It is supported by WHO, the World Bank and the United Nations, and has been endorsed by 48 national governments. 

The announcement of the initiative came at a time when the world was (and still is) facing many healthcare dilemmas such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, and lifestyle diseases such as diabetes mellitus and heart disease. Why then the emphasis on bones and joints? 

According to the WHO, musculoskeletal (bone and joint) diseases account for more than half of all chronic conditions in people over 50 years of age in many countries and there are thought to be several hundred million sufferers worldwide.In addition, these numbers are expected to double by 2020 in people over 50. 

Musculoskeletal conditions are common in all regions of the world and encompass about 150 diseases and syndromes affecting children and adults, which are usually associated with pain and loss of physical function. 

But thatís not nearly the half of it. Musculoskeletal conditions are the most frequent cause of disability. They severely affect a personís ability to carry out activities of daily living. Such conditions are amongst the most costly because of the long-term care and support they require. That also means an increased burden on financial and healthcare systems. 

But itís not all doom and gloom. New drugs, biological treatments and less invasive joint replacements are leading to breakthroughs in the way the conditions are managed.  

Note: The bone and joint decade is an independent global non-profit organisation whose mission is to improve the health-related quality of life for people affected by musculoskeletal disorders worldwide. It is the umbrella organisation by which National Action Networks, professional medical societies, patient advocacy groups, governments, industry and researchers partner to effect change by: (1) Raising awareness of the growing burden of musculoskeletal disorders on society; (2) Empowering patients to participate in their own care; (3) Promoting costeffective prevention and treatment; and (4) Advancing understanding of musculoskeletal disorders through research to improve prevention and treatment. For more information, visit the web site at http://www.boneandjointdecade.org/ 

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