We're using cookies to give you the best experience on our site. Cookies are files stored in your browser and are used by most websites to help personalise your web experience.

By continuing to use our website without changing the settings, you're agreeing to our use of cookies.

Find out more
For more information, go to

Making arthritis a public health priority in England

Published on 11 April 2018

Morgan, Arthritis Research UK campaigns manager and Debs walking down the streetWe have great news! After years of partnership working between Arthritis Research UK and Public Health England (PHE), musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions will be one of its new priority programmes. We believe this commitment will help many people across England living with arthritis.

How did this all start?

We know that arthritis can affect every aspect of a person’s life, but many people are never given information on activities which could reduce the risk of developing certain kinds of arthritis, or how to reduce the pain it can cause once they have it. They only discover more once they’re in pain and going through the process of being diagnosed. We want more people to understand the contributing factors, and to know that being physically active is one of the best things anyone can do for their musculoskeletal health. But to make this a reality we knew we needed to get Public Health England (PHE) on board.

Who are Public Health England?

PHE is a Government Agency funded to improve the nation’s health. It does this by promoting healthier lifestyles, sharing information and expertise, and identifying and preparing for future public health challenges. An example of awareness campaigns it has run is the ‘One You’ campaign which encourages people in midlife to take control of their health to enjoy benefits now and in the future, or their campaign to encourage people to eat 5 pieces of fresh fruit and vegetables a day.

When PHE was established in 2013, musculoskeletal health was not among its priorities. In order to increase people’s awareness of the benefits of physical activity for their joints, we knew we needed to influence PHE that lifelong good musculoskeletal health is something it should help tackle on a large scale.

How have we worked with Public Health England?

Arthritis Research UK and Public Health England have worked together on several different projects over the last five years:

  • Arthritis Research UK worked with Imperial College London to produce and publish data on how many people in each geographical area live with MSK conditions. This information did not exist before hand, and these estimates have helped national and local decision-makers to realise the number of people affected in their local area, and make plans to support them. Arthritis Research UK and PHE then published joint bulletins for local areas on osteoarthritis and back pain, and the data is now available on PHE’s public health profiles website.
  • We brought together a group of senior MSK researchers, representatives from Public Health England, and professional bodies to discuss a public health approach to MSK conditions. From this, a manifesto called ‘Musculoskeletal health: a public health approach’ was created.
  • Arthritis Research UK, PHE, NHS England and the then Department of Health produced a report called ‘Providing physical activity interventions for people with musculoskeletal conditions’ to engage professionals on the benefits of physical activity, and to support local planning and implementation. In support PHE created the Musculoskeletal conditions: return on investment tool (2017), to help local decision makers provide cost-effective interventions for the prevention and treatment of MSK conditions.
  • We ensured the PHE ‘One You’ health promotion programme, included weblinks to our arthritis specific resources.
  • We published ‘Working with Arthritis’ which showcases the evidence for good MSK health at work.
  • We funded two roles at PHE to support their activities on MSK health and make relevant links to show where MSK health could be improved.
  • We contributed to a chapter in ‘All Our Health’ - a PHE resource to support healthcare professionals to improve health outcomes and reduce health inequalities.

What happens now?

As a result of all this work, we’re delighted that PHE has now prioritised MSK as a public health priority. We will continue to work in partnership with PHE to ensure that people understand the impact of arthritis and the benefits of lifelong good MSK health.

Back to Arthritis Research UK press releases

Providing physical activity interventions for people with musculoskeletal conditions report

Graciela lifting weights in her home

Providing physical activity interventions for people with musculoskeletal conditions is jointly produced by Arthritis Research UK, the Department of Health, Public Health England and NHS England.

Musculoskeletal health – a public health approach

Line drawing of children playing

Find out more about the ways we are seeking to promote a public health approach to musculoskeletal conditions.

Working with arthritis – our policy report

Builders drinking tea and chatting

This report describes the impact of musculoskeletal conditions on the UK workforce and gives the perspectives of people with musculoskeletal conditions about working life.

Join our campaigns network

Fiona, Arthritis Research UK campaign officer, and Jennylyn looking at paperwork

Join the thousands of people campaigning to push back the limits of arthritis. Take action with us to transform the lives of the 17.8 million people in the UK.

We're now

Versus Arthritis.

You're being taken through to our new website in order to finish your donation.

Thank you for your generosity.

For more information, go to
Arthritis Research UK fund research into the cause, treatment and cure of arthritis. You can support Arthritis Research UK by volunteering, donating or visiting our shops.