Generally, Canadians are proud of our healthcare system and grateful that we can access it when we need it. But for some, accessing the care they need continues to be a struggle. This is particularly true for Canadians who suffer from musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions, including back and neck pain. It can be very difficult to access appropriate, evidence-informed care due to either personal or systemic barriers.
Considering the tremendous burden of MSK conditions on the health and well-being of Canadians, notwithstanding the costs and loss of productivity, MSK health should be at the forefront of all governments’ health discussions and policy debate. Yet, MSK health has received very little attention thus far.
In 2012, the WHO published a report in The Lancet that declares MSK diseases the second greatest cause of disability worldwide. Interestingly, among these, back pain was found to be the most prevalent cause of disability worldwide. The emergence of this evidence supports similar trends that have been observed locally and highlights the need for MSK health to be set as a key public health priority. Canada is no exception!
The federal government is the fifth largest purchaser and provider of healthcare in Canada, and it has a responsibility to provide efficient and effective delivery of care for the populations it serves. These are referred to as federal populations, and they include soldiers, veterans, First Nations and Inuit, RCMP members and corrections. Remarkably, all federal populations have a greater incidence of back pain and MSK conditions than the general population. What is being done to mitigate the damage?
Among those most at risk are our men and women in uniform. It is surprising to consider that currently, MSK conditions are responsible for 53% of all medical releases in the Canadian Forces (CF) with many cases resulting in lifelong pain and disability. This, of course, has an impact on the important investment of resources for care and rehabilitation. Improved early access to appropriate care would help to prevent chronicity and even recurrence of conditions. There can be a brighter future for Canadian healthcare, particularly regarding MSK conditions!
An example of a better future is where healthcare providers, including Canadian chiropractors, patients and governments work in partnership to establish an MSK Strategy that benefits not only federal populations, but all Canadians. This is the vision we are working towards and we are making progress.
Building on recent recommendations of the Standing Committee on National Defence and the Government, the Canadian Chiropractic Association is calling for the development of a comprehensive MSK Strategy founded on building a better understanding of the burden of these conditions, educating Canadians on appropriate care, and enhancing care through comprehensive clinical programs and services. Canadian chiropractors are poised to help support and partner with others to enhance prevention, as well as to optimize outcomes, efficiencies and communication, all while expanding education and training in MSK health.
By examining and incorporating best practices from other militaries, empowering personnel to take an active role in their care, integrating community-based healthcare providers and improving communication among them, the proposed MSK strategy would address the entire continuum of health, including preventative strategies, assessment, diagnosis and appropriate management of MSK conditions.
With a robust MSK Strategy, healthcare providers, patients and governments working together can support healthy aging, mobility and independence for all Canadians.