DFCM faculty member helping make musculoskeletal health a global priority

Jul 9, 2021

Musculoskeletal problems are thought to be the leading reason for visits to primary care physicians, and are one of the top 10 reasons for family physician visits across Canada and globally. 

Despite being the world’s leading cause of pain, disability and health care expenditure, musculoskeletal issues - including low back pain, fractures, arthritis and osteoporosis - are globally under-prioritised according to an international research team including Dr. Deborah Kopansky-Giles, Assistant Professor at DFCM and Professor at the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College.

The research, and resulting report, was commissioned by the Global Alliance for Musculoskeletal Health and led by Professor Andrew Briggs at Curtin School of Allied Health in Australia. Representing 72 countries and 116 organizations, the research suggests that the prevalence, burden and cost of musculoskeletal health impairments will continue to rise globally, especially in low and middle‐income countries, owing to population growth, population ageing, an increasing prevalence of risk factors. 

“One of the limiting factors to reform efforts is that no global-level strategic response to the burden of disability has been developed – until now. This novel data-driven initiative will be critical to guiding global-level work in health reform, such as that undertaken by the World Health Organization (WHO),” says Professor Briggs. 

The report proposes eight key pillars for health systems to strengthen musculoskeletal health, from leadership and financing to engagement and surveillance.

“Musculoskeletal issues significantly affect quality of life for people and their families, and place an enormous burden on family doctors and other primary care providers as well as health economies. Yet, they are generally poorly managed,” says Dr. Kopansky-Giles, who is a DFCM researcher and recently completed her term as Health Professional Educator co-lead.

“Recent efforts to improve training and education are showing some improvements, such as an updated musculoskeletal curriculum for family medicine residents at U of T, but much more needs to be done. This blueprint, which includes perspectives from patients, health advocates, clinicians, teachers, policy makers and researchers, in countries with various levels of economic health, provides an excellent baseline from which Canada, the WHO and other countries can build their musculoskeletal health policies.”  

The international team of researchers is from: University of Sydney; University of Toronto; Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, Kathmandu University and the University of Southern Denmark. The full report and an executive summary are now available.