Background In 2011 two extensive studies were conducted that considered the staying at and striving for work of people with musculoskeletal disease, and the economical burden of the diseased to the country. The results of the studies were astonishing. It created a need to inform the whole society (officials, employers, patients etc). On the 23rd November 2012 the Estonian Rheumatism Association (ERA) organized an informative event called Rheumaforum to discuss the results of “Fit for Work Estonia” study.
Objectives The role of staying at work, maintaining good health and ability to work, supportive optimal and timely treatment in the economical capability and the reduction of social costs has not been recognized enough in Estonia. In the opinion of ERA, rheumatic diseases should be included in national health related prevention and treatment priorities. At the moment, the Estonian policy is rather aimed at the reduction of mortality (caused by cardiovascular diseases, cancer and accidents), but not at the prevention of developing a disability nor at the immediate active treatment of diseases that harm the work ability.
According to the “Fit for Work Estonia” musculoskeletal diseases cut the work ability of at least half of the employees in Estonia. Country spends almost 400 mln € for these diseases per year1. Pursuant to the analysis (conducted in the beginning of 2012) of economical impact of arthritis, the state spent money on rehabilitation and aids only 4% of the grand total that was paid for the same patients and their caregivers as a compensation2. The state spends the money rather on the costs that occur with disabilities than on the job loss caused by the diseases and also to the biological treatment to prevent the disability. The timely accessibility of biological treatment would reduce significantly the occurrence of the irreversible health damage, the state expenditure and the costs for the patient.
Methods Press releases were sent out to media. The information was distributed also through ERA’s homepage and in social media (Facebook). Ingemar Petersson, the professor of Lund University, gave examples about the relationship between the state, employers and the patients. Studies were introduced by the research workers; rheumatologists, rehabilitation doctors and patients talked about the situation of the diseased. The chairman of the parliament´s Social Affairs and the chairman of the board of Estonian Health Insurance Fund did informative presentations.
Results The public awareness about musculoskeletal diseases and about the economical impact of the diseases to the state rose as the result of Rheumaforum. The summary of the forum will be sent to the Ministry of Social Affairs and also to other government agencies and specialists.
Conclusions During the discussion between the decisionmakers it was offered to create a special work group to develop better cooperation. It is important to maintain the constructive cooperation between patient organizations, doctors and government agencies to reduce the dropout of working-age people and to avoid the increase of the state expenditure.
Zheltoukhova, K., Bevan, S. (2011). Fit for Work? Musculoskeletal Disorders and the Estonian Labour Market. London: The Work Foundation
Veldre, V., Aaviksoo, A., Sikkut, R. (2012). Autoimmuunsete liigesepõletike haigus- ja majanduslik koormus Eestis. Tallinn: PRAXIS center for Policy Studies
Disclosure of Interest None Declared