Matthew is attending the the WHO Health Assembly in Geneva as part of a delegation from the World Federation of Chiropractic (WFC). The Assembly meets every year to discuss pressing health issues around the world and to formulate strategies for dealing with them. The UK government is represented by a strong delegation including Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies. The UK is pushing for better dementia care and more sensible use of antibiotics to prevent bug resistance.
At the keynote address, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan galloped through the tide of health issues facing not just the developing world but also wealthier nations. She touched on everything from the resurgence of polio to the the obesity epidemic in children. Unfortunately no mention was made of musculo-skeletal (MSK) disorders like back pain. That is why the WFC delegation is here; to raise awareness about the leading cause of disability throughout the world.
The recent report on the Global Burden of Disease concluded
“Low back pain causes more global disability than any other condition. With the ageing population, there is an urgent need for further research to better understand low back pain across different settings.”
Matthew talked with one of the co-authors of the report and a member of the WFC delegation, Professor Anthony Woolf, a UK based consultant rheumatologist about how musculo-skeletal problems are a public health issue. They are the leading cause of disability in all parts of the world and have a huge economic and social impact but are overshadowed by the big killers like heart disease and cancer. They agreed that all professional groups need to work together to address this growing problem.
The World Health Assembly meetings take place at the vast United Nations buildings here in Geneva. Outside there are views of the lake, flags fluttering and black limousines everywhere. Inside the huge assembly hall is hard to miss but trying to find one of the multitude of meeting rooms can mean a long trek from one side of the complex to the other and from the basement up eight floors to the top.
The WFC delegation consists of chiropractors, academics, researchers and doctors all with the goal of improving the provision of MSK care worldwide. The WFC itself was formed in 1988 and was admitted into official relations with the WHO in 1997 as a non-governmental organisation (NGO). The WFC represents the national chiropractic associations in 90 countries including the UK.