Health care professionals are increasingly aware of the multifaceted burden of rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases (RMDs). Aside from typical symptoms such as pain and limited range of motion of the affected joints or other body parts the patients frequently suffer as much from limited social participation and even isolation. Reduced participation in the labor force associated with high indirect costs for society and potential effects of expensive medications have gained increasing attention among researchers and health care insurances.
However, other affected social roles concerning family, friends, and leisure activities have been less focused, even though they may be more prominent for individuals with RMDs than working life. The experience of limited social participation depends on medical factors such as disease severity and treatment but also on mostly neglected non-medical environmental and personal factors (i.e., social network and services, individual skills and preferences). Low communication skills may be significant barriers to social participation. In a nationwide project funded by the German League against Rheumatism (GLR) persons with RMDs reported difficulties in disease-related conversations across various situations. Significant factors of RMD-related everyday communication were identified. Based on the results, a training to enhance the communication skills of persons with RMDs in various situations significant for social participation is underway. The GLR offers various other services that facilitate social participation of individuals with RMDs. These services were evaluated by different RMD groups in order to identify the potential for further adjustment according the patients' preferences.
Disclosure of Interest None declared