December 2000 Bulletin

Bone and Joint Decade network takes shape

Representatives from 14 organizations with an interest in musculoskeletal health came together in Washington, D.C., in early October, reaching a consensus on the proposed goals and structure of the U.S. Bone and Joint Decade’s National Action Network (NAN).

"I was pleased with the outcome of the meeting," says Andrew Guccione, senior vice president of practice and research at American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). "I think it was difficult to try to knit together so many diverse groups, but in the end we succeeded and we’re still on a forward path."

The NAN is an umbrella coalition open to any U.S. organization—57 currently—that endorses the missions and goals of the Bone and Joint Decade. The decade’s primary goals are to raise awareness of the growing burden of musculoskeletal disorders in society, empower patients, promote cost-effective prevention and treatment, and advance understanding through research. The AAOS believes that greater awareness and understanding of musculoskeletal conditions among patients, government, researchers and other providers ultimately will serve to benefit orthopaedic surgeons and orthopaedics, in general.

A better-educated public leads not only to more patients heading to orthopaedists’ offices, but more patients who are willing to participate fully in their own care. Expanded research efforts can translate directly into a more advanced, efficient orthopaedic practice. Finally, improved data collection about the health and economic impact of musculoskeletal conditions—when tied to studies demonstrating the cost-effectiveness and value of orthopaedic surgery—can serve to increase public and government support for orthopaedic surgery.

One of the key decisions arrived at during the organizing meeting concerns the proposed structure for the NAN. After discussing the pros and cons of 501(c)(3) vs. a formal coalition, the group consensus was that a formal coalition should be established. Although all of the parties involved agreed it was important to have a core group serve as leadership for the NAN, they stressed that its role will be to facilitate, not control. Therefore, an "organizing committee" was established to serve as the NAN leadership for up to two years. The organizing committee also will help to create and organize the "steering committee," which would ultimately replace the organizing committee. Members who sit on the organizing committee must be willing to be supportive with time, resources staff funds, etc.

"The goal is to provide leadership and direction to the National Action Network," said Cindy Yeast, vice president of communications for the American Chiropractic Association (ACA), "to keep all the involved parties moving forward, keep the activities moving, and to give people ideas of what they can be doing to promote the Bone and Joint Decade. When you have a coalition, it’s difficult not to have a designated leader. People have their own priorities and will get caught up in those if they don’t have someone reminding them on a consistent basis to work for the goals of the Bone and Joint Decade."

Representatives of the core groups seemed to agree that the benefits of being involved in the NAN are two-fold. The opportunity to work toward the ultimate goals of the Bone and Joint Decade is one "draw," while the chance to be part of a collaborative effort with other musculoskeletal providers is an added benefit.

"This presents a lot of good relationship-building opportunities," says John Wilson, director of marketing and communications for the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (AAPMR). Groups that typically don’t work together will have an opportunity to do so on behalf of both patients and providers, and that’s really exciting. Our interest in the Bone and Joint Decade itself is the opportunity it presents for increased awareness of musculoskeletal conditions among a variety of key constituents—patients, of course, being one—but also other providers, government and researchers. It just raises the whole profile of musculoskeletal conditions, which our specialty deals with from primarily a nonsurgical standpoint."

All of the individuals representing the 14 core groups at the October meeting will be members of the organizing committee. These groups include the AAOS, AAPMR, American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), Council on Musculoskeletal Specialty Societies (COMSS), ACA, American College of Rheumatology (ACR), American Geriatrics Society (AGS), American Osteopathic Association (AOA), APTA, American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR), Arthritis Foundation (AF), National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America (POSNA), Shriners Hospitals, and United Cerebral Palsy. The National Osteoporosis Foundation will be represented on the organizing committee, as well.

The immediate goals and activities of the organizing committee were identified as:

Groups that could commit to joining the organizing committee immediately, without prior approval from their boards, included: APTA, NATA, ACR, AAPMR, AAOS, ACA, AOA, POSNA, Shriners Hospitals and United Cerebral Palsy.

The AAOS accepted the group’s request that it serve as secretariat for up to two years. The organizing committee, through the secretariat, will be responsible for communications to all other U.S. groups to explain what has happened and why.

In explaining the motivation for APTA’s participation in the NAN, Guccione says, "I think for us, it is a partnership with the leadership of the AAOS. Historically, the collaborative relationship between physical therapists and physicians and surgeons has always occurred in the interest of patient care. We see this as a chance to extend that long-term collaboration into the larger realm of patient advocacy and public health."

Cindy Yeast agrees that the ACA’s primary goal is "being involved with a coalition of groups that have similar goals—that is, trying to improve the lives of people with musculoskeletal disorders. Many of these providers don’t have a chance to work with each other on a daily basis, and when you have all that talent and knowledge in one room, it’s very impressive. It can be very powerful to put this talent to work."

Summing up the meeting, Jennifer Taylor-McBride, Arthritis Foundation associate vice president, public policy and advocacy, said, "Some important decisions were made here—agreeing to establish a coalition and an organizing committee, in particular. I believe the fact that this diverse group met and was able to come to decisions on these matters will enable the national action network to move forward."

"To date, the Academy has been carrying the ball for the United States’ National Action Network," said Stuart L. Weinstein, MD, chair of the AAOS Bone and Joint Decade committee and convener of the NAN, "but the level of enthusiasm at the Oct. 6 meeting was very high. We came away feeling that we now have true partners in this national effort."

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