The increasing burden of arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions in both developed and developing societies is shown by national and community-based surveys. Many complaints are sufficiently severe to cause disability and loss of time from work. Medical care is provided most often by primary health care physicians who are often inadequately trained to handle these conditions. Better medical student education that focuses on common community problems remains crucial. Strong rheumatology units with a commitment to teaching and research are necessary to redress any imbalance as new curricula are developed. Such units also have to take responsibility for primary health care physician and nurse education in how to manage common musculoskeletal problems.Arthritis Foundations and patient support groups have a role in public education and in increasing community knowledge on the causes and prevention of some common conditions so as to assist in improving overall care. New initiatives in professional and public education have given encouraging results, but further changes in community attitudes and perceptions of chronic conditions are necessary and are within the scope of most Arthritis Foundations’ key objectives.
The fact that there is an increasing and growing need in societies for care of sufferers of rheumatic conditions can be shown from national statistics. In Australia, for example, arthritic and related musculoskeletal diseases may not dominate mortality statistics but they figure in the top three causes of acute illness, chronic illness and disability using Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data.
This article is available only as a PDF. Please click on “Download PDF” on top to view the full article.