Global burden of musculoskeletal disease revealed in new WHO report



"The Burden of Musculoskeletal Conditions at the Start of the New Millennium," a WHO report released on 27 October, aims to better prepare nations for the increase in disability brought about by the global rise in musculoskeletal conditions. Written in collaboration with the Bone and Joint Decade Initiative, (see our theme issue, Volume 81(9), for further details), the report provides a snapshot of the extent of the problem and its impact. It is also intended to act as a baseline against which the effects of health interventions can be measured.

The 150 musculoskeletal conditions mentioned in the report affect millions of people in both developing and developed countries all over the world. They are the most frequent cause of disability and are amongst the most costly illnesses because of the long-term care and support they require. Total costs of musculoskeletal disease in the US in 2000 have been estimated at US$ 254 billion. In developing countries, the figure is estimated at US$ 100 billion, nearly twice that of total foreign aid for these nations.

These figures are expected to rise. "There will be a marked increase in requirements for health care and community support in the coming years," said Dr Catherine Le Galès-Camus, WHO Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health. One of the major diseases mentioned in the report is osteoporosis. In 1990 there were 1.7 million related hip fractures worldwide and this figure is expected to increase to 6 million by 2050. (See the article, "Exercise interventions: defusing the world's osteoporosis time bomb," on pp X-X in this issue of the Bulletin).

The reasons for the continuing rise in numbers of those affected by musculoskeletal conditions include, in the developing world, successful treatment of communicable diseases combined with a rapid increase in road traffic accidents. The increasing number of elderly people has been a major contributing factor to a similar rise in developed countries.

World Health Organization Genebra - Genebra - Switzerland