Nearly one in four Kiwis have a musculoskeletal disorder, such as arthritis, which costs the country more than $5.5 billion each year to treat, according to a new report.
The Fit to Work report, released this week, prepared by Lancaster University's The Work Foundation, says more needs to be done to support those with MSDs or musculoskeletal disorders and prevent even more Kiwis being affected.
"As the number of people with chronic conditions are projected to soar across the globe, New Zealand needs to ensure that strategic, joined-up policies are in place to support the primary prevention of MSDs through early detection and intervention," the report says.
By 2020 more than 650,000 people are expected to have at least one type of arthritis, compared 530,000 in 2010.
Those out of work due to arthritis cost the economy $1.5b each year and in the 2009/2010 period ACC paid out $140m on work-related MSD claims.
The overall cost to the health system is estimated at $5.5b per year or 25 percent of total health costs.
The report's authors, Stephen Bevan, Natalie Gunning and Rosemary Thomas, suggest that the government forms a national action plan to raise awareness about MSDs and engage those affected and health care professionals.
There needs to be a focus on getting people back into employment where possible, early diagnosis and intervention and GPs should look beyond the physical symptoms of MSDs.
Individuals, employers, clinicians and policy makers needed to work together to prevent the impact of chronic conditions caused by MSDs.
The report also highlights the impact these disorders have on a person's ability to work.
At the end of 2010 nearly 15 percent of all sickness benefits and nearly 12 percent of invalid's benefits were for MSDs.
MSD is a disorder of soft tissue, joints cartilage, blood vessels or the spine.