The Economic Impact of Bone and Joint-Related Health Problems

A new study by the Institute of Health Economics has estimated that the indirect economic impact of bone and joint problems, including arthritis, totaled $17.9 billion dollars in 1997. Apparently, the main reason for this figure is the lost productivity of people who are unable to work and conduct business. The study reveals that osteoarthritis is two and a half times more prevalent in Canada than is heart disease, and over six times more prevalent than cancer. It is estimated that with Canada's aging population, the number of people with bone and joint-related health problems in Canada will increase by 124% over the next 30 years.

Despite this increased demand, a shortage of orthopaedic surgeons is making it difficult for people to get the care they need. On average, patients are forced to wait more than six months for joint replacement surgery in Canada, and many have to wait longer than a year.

The findings of this study were supported by a parallel phone survey conducted by Decima Research, which found that 42% of Canadians have been affected by bone and joint problems--either personally or through the severe physical pain of a family member or friend.

The Canadian Orthopaedic Association and The Arthritis Society have now developed a comprehensive plan to address the issues that are critical to orthopaedic care in Canada. Entitled Canada in Motion: Mobilizing Access to Orthopaedic Care the plan calls for Canada's federal and provincial ministers of health to work with the medical community to develop a national orthopaedic care strategy.

Please see next month's issue of Geriatrics & Aging for articles on the various options available for the treatment of arthritis in the elderly.