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Public health

Morgan, Arthritis Research UK Campaign Manager, and Debs walking arm in arm

Good lifelong good musculoskeletal health enables people to live independently and carry out their daily activities without pain and discomfort. At every age people should be supported to maintain and improve the health of their joints, bones and muscles. The public health system has a key role to play in providing support for people with musculoskeletal conditions to manage their health and maintain their quality of life. We work across the following areas of public health:

  • Physical activity
  • Obesity
  • Funding and provision of local health services (such as weight loss and physical activity programmes)
  • Public health awareness campaigns
  • Work

In 2014 we published the report Musculoskeletal health – a public health approach to make the case for promoting good, lifelong healthy bones, muscles and joints.

We have also published a policy position on musculoskeletal conditions and public health in Scotland.

Local public health services and musculoskeletal conditions

Following the transition of the delivery of public health services to local authorities from the NHS (Health and Social Care Act (2012) many of the services and facilities (such as physical activity facilities and weight loss services) that people with musculoskeletal conditions rely on are provided through local authorities and community-based facilities.

This transition means that there are significant opportunities for local authorities to improve the health of their local populations through intervention programmes and the promotion of good public health. Small reductions in major risk factors (such as physical inactivity and obesity) could result in improvements in musculoskeletal health, reducing costs and burden on individuals, health care services, the economy and wider society. Local authorities can identify public health issues in their area through Joint Strategic Needs Assessments and plan for them through Joint Health and Wellbeing Boards and Health and Wellbeing Strategies. We have published a report that makes the case for local authorities to recognise the needs of people with arthritis.

It is important that people are able to access the public health services they need wherever they live in the country. The provision of these services are an important part of addressing health inequalities. People in the most deprived local authorities face the most significant public health risks such as poor diet, obesity and lack of physical activity as well as higher rates of musculoskeletal ill health.

Partnership with Public Health England (PHE)

We have a strong stakeholder relationship with PHE and have met at regular intervals with the Health and Wellbeing team as part of the Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Alliance (ARMA). The meetings have focused on healthy ageing, physical activity and musculoskeletal conditions in the workplace and we will continue to engage with PHE in this forum to ensure musculoskeletal conditions are on the public health agenda.

In addition, we have also been working with the campaigns and marketing team alongside ARMA partners to explore opportunities to ensure messaging on good musculoskeletal health is included in public health awareness platforms such as ‘One You’.

Finally, we are grateful to PHE for coproducing our report ‘Providing physical activity interventions for people with musculoskeletal conditions’ alongside NHS England and the Department of Health.

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