Background Historically and present MSDs have a hard time competing with highly mortal and visible diseases in a political context. Politicians simply give more attention to cancer, diabetes, COPD, etc. The battle for resources is even fiercer during the economic crisis. As a response, the Danish Rheumatism Association progressively makes use of a strong selling point to politicians: the immense volume of MSDs and hence, social costs.
Objectives MSDs such as Osteoarthritis (OA) and Back Pain can be characterized by their high prevalence affecting millions of people globally. In Denmark, public survey numbers indicate that OA affects as many as 19.7 per cent of the adult Danish population, while various forms of Back Pain affects 13.6 per cent of the adult population.
On top of the substantial medical costs of MSDs significant social costs (the costs of MSDs on a societal level) follow. For instance, MSDs are the second most frequent cause for early retirement in Denmark costing society billions of kroner annually. Furthermore, lost productivity due to absence from work and pay/benefit expenses during sickness add to the equation of social costs.
Making politicians improve and support better prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of MSD-patients in a time of economic crisis is difficult. Thus, as agents we need strong arguments to break through the overall discourse of financial restraint and consolidation. Pointing out social costs can serve as the winning argument, as investment in prevention and early intervention will often turn out cost-neutral or even with a surplus in the end.
Results The presentation will give two examples of analyses carried out by the Danish Rheumatism Association. The first study examines the social costs of Back Pain using public survey data in combination with register data. Examining prevalence of Back Pain and its consequences in terms of cost of treatment, productivity loss and public expenditure on benefits, the study concludes that Back Pain cost Danish society close to 17 billion DKK (€ 2.2 billion) annually. The second study looks at rehabilitation and the potential cost-benefits of implementing improved rehabilitation programs for MSD-patients. The study indicates that by implementing an evidence-based, interdisciplinary program on a local level, society could overall benefit 1.2 billion DKK (€ 160 million) annually.
Conclusions Finally, the presentation will address the prospects and challenges of using social cost analysis as a political campaigning tool. As the two examples show, there are easily understandable, substantial arguments that support better prevention and treatment of MSDs, but are politicians ready to (re)think health care on a much broader level?
Disclosure of Interest None Declared
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