Background Rheumatic diseases affect millions of people around Europe and disrupt their work. Work is a fundamental human right, therefore people with RMDs should be able to be fully integrated in the society and the workforce. Health Professionals Association for the Rehabilitation of Rheumatological and Musculoskeletal Diseases (cosmos-rheuma+) in conjunction with patient organisations and other governmental and non-governmental organisations, supports and promotes the people with RMDs' right to a safe, healthy, accessible and inclusive work environment.
Objectives The objectives of campaign include the integration of the people with RMDs in the workforce by promoting and supporting the creation of equal opportunities as well as informing them about employment rights and job opportunities. Employers should create an inclusive working environment, without discriminating and isolating the people with RMDs. Health professionals should focus on the people with RMDs' abilities rather than their disabilities. They should support them in finding employment or remaining in their current job. The scope of the campaign includes the prevention of RMDs in the working environment and the implementation of the measures necessary to avoid the occurrence of musculoskeletal health issues arising therein. Another important objective is to minimise the need for long-term sick leaves and encourage the patients to continue working.
Methods A lot of work is required from many different professionals in order to succeed. Cosmos-rheuma+ holds meetings with politicians and policy makers to inform them on how to improve and increase the job opportunities and create an accessible work environment. Through seminars, workshops, information leaflets and media exposure, cosmos-rheuma+ supports the people with RMDs and promotes awareness. Meetings with health professionals are also regularly held to discuss their line of action towards the integration of those patients in the workforce. Discussions with employers have resulted in a more proactive attitude towards the employment of people with RMDs. During the workshops, the employers are informed of measures that should be taken in order to prevent musculoskeletal diseases. Participating in conferences and programmes is essential to the improvement of cosmos-rheuma+ policies and has led to the implementation of new ideas and strategies. The contribution of the volunteers is key to the operation of the association.
Results By means of an annual assessment, the health professionals take their reviews to the Central Committee and the Board, who perform the final assessment and suggest ways to improve the policies and their implementation. The feedback from the workshops has been very positive and has led to legislation concerning not only the inclusion of RMDs patients into the working force, but also accessibility.
Conclusions By providing the people with RMDs and their current and potential employers with the adequate information and support, cosmos-rheuma+ strives to achieve equality and inclusion. Their policies, which are constantly reviewed, have led to a decrease in the prejudice against the RMDs patients' employability and a positive change in the way they have been approached. In addition, the RMDs patients in employment as well as their job opportunities have increased.
Disclosure of Interest None declared