White paper outlines new strategy for musculoskeletal research

Tuesday, 22 Oct 2019

A/Prof Sharon Brennan-Olsen

A white paper developed by University of Melbourne researchers has called for a new strategy to make musculoskeletal research a priority for Australia.

The paper, “Advocating for Musculoskeletal Research in Australia” produced by the Australian Institute of Musculoskeletal Science, highlights the gap between the high prevalence of musculoskeletal conditions and the low level of research funding provided by bodies such as the NHMRC.

It notes that musculoskeletal conditions are the fourth leading contributor to the burden of disease in Australia, affecting approximately 30% of the population, but less than 4% of healthcare grant funding is directed towards research into these conditions.

This leaves musculoskeletal researchers with limited resources for undertaking rigorous research and development into these conditions. There are also gaps in knowledge about musculoskeletal conditions among both doctors and medical students, the paper states.

“The inadequate level of research funding for musculoskeletal conditions acts as a barrier to effective and optimal research at the University of Melbourne and other institutions,” said said co-author Associate Professor Sharon Brennan-Olsen of the AIMSS management committee.

The paper draws on the experience gained from a recent AIMSS Musculoskeletal Research Forum, which included presentations by Professor Arthur Conigrave, Head of the Sydney Medical School, and Dr Heather St John, Director of the Medical Research Future Fund strategy at Melbourne University

Proposed solutions include:

  1. A focus on collaboration and development of networks to enable sharing of skills, resources, data and ideas.
  2. Increased investment in musculoskeletal research through lobbying of state and federal governments with the aim of securing higher funding.
  3. Greater awareness and support of stakeholders to strengthen the profile of the major hubs for musculoskeletal research in Australia.
  4. Improving public awareness of musculoskeletal conditions via marketing and social media to communicate the impact of research and prevention.

“Our aim is to increase awareness of the prevalence of musculoskeletal conditions in Australia, to lobby for increased funding from state and federal governments for research and development purposes, and to position musculoskeletal research within the research agenda,” the paper’s authors concluded.

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