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Orthopedist Helping Raise Global Awareness
of Bone and Joint Problems
February 7, 2000

Bruce Browner, Chairman of Orthopedic Surgery at the Health Center, is working with an international coalition of medical experts to raise awareness about the most common causes of physical disability throughout the world: diseases and injuries of bones and joints.

Browner, a professor with the UConn School of Medicine and director of orthopedics at Hartford Hospital, is one of three Americans to serve on the international steering committee for The Decade of the Bone and Joint, 2000-2010. He was in Geneva on Jan. 13 to launch the first initiative of The Decade of the Bone and Joint, a worldwide study on the impact of musculoskeletal injuries, at the headquarters of the World Health Organization.

"Musculoskeletal injuries and disorders are the most common causes of severe long-term pain throughout the world," Browner says. "They range from fractures and dislocations caused by road traffic accidents, sports injuries and other traumatic incidents, to joint diseases like osteoarthritis, bone mass problems like osteoporosis, spinal disorders, low back pain and pediatric orthopedic problems."

Similar to an effort in the '90s, The Decade of the Brain, which set out to raise awareness about neurological problems, organizers of The Decade of the Bone and Joint want to increase understanding of the global impact of musculoskeletal injuries and disorders. Their goals for the decade are to:

  • Raise awareness and educate the world about the societal impact of musculoskeletal injuries and disorders;

  • Empower patients to participate in decisions about their care and treatment;

  • Increase global funding for prevention activities and treatment research;

  • Continually seek and promote cost-effective prevention and treatment of musculoskeletal injuries and disorders.

Browner notes that the timing of this designation is significant because the world's population is aging. Arthritis accounts for more than half of all chronic conditions in people over age 50. And fractures caused by osteoporosis are more common among older people.

"In the U.S., baby-boomers are inching out of middle age and will soon be experiencing many of these problems," he says. "Worldwide, the number of people over 65 will soon be greater than the number of people under 20."

Efforts to launch The Decade of the Bone and Joint began when a group of health care providers and patient advocacy groups came together in 1998. Browner became involved through his role as Chairman of the International Committee of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. He was elected to serve on the steering committee in 1998 and has been working intensely with the group since then.

The first initiative of The Decade of the Bone and Joint will be the Bone and Joint Monitor Project. Working with the World Health Organization, this unprecedented project will study the impact of musculoskeletal injuries and disorders across the world; measure the burden of these conditions on society; and measure the efficacy of prevention and treatment strategies worldwide.

To date, 40 countries have established networks to plan activities related to The Bone and Joint Decade. Also, 15 countries have officially designated the years 2000-2010 The Bone and Joint Decade, and the project has garnered support from the United Nations, the World Health Organization and the World Bank.

Maureen McGuire