During its 29th Annual Meeting, the North American Spine Society (NASS) launched the North American Spine Foundation, a non-profit organisation established to end spine-related disability through research, education and advocacy.
“Spine-related disability impacts us all, outpacing diabetes, lung cancer, tuberculosis, preterm birth and malaria as the leading cause of suffering worldwide,” says Michael L Reed, executive director of the North American Spine Foundation. “The North American Spine Foundation is uniquely positioned to lead the charge to reduce the medical, social, emotional and financial devastation of spine-related disability globally.”
Surprisingly, the rate of spine-related symptoms has not changed, but the degree of spine-related disability has steadily increased over the past decade and continues to rise. This is due to the fact that spine-related disability is not just a medical issue; rather, it stems from a combination of occupational, psychological, social and medical factors.
According to te new Foundation, spine-related disability negatively affects everyone, not only those who personally experience spine problems and impaired function. Indirectly, and increasingly every day, society sacrifices a substantial amount of money supporting patients with spine problems through higher taxes and rising insurance premiums:
• Statistics show that 30% of employees will develop a disability in their lifetime, making them 71% more likely to reach the poverty level due to unemployment and financial loss.
• US employers incur annual productivity losses for spine-related disability equaling US$28bn. At the societal level, US$357bn of US public funds is spent annually supporting those disabled. Spinal disorders are recognised as a major contributor to this cost.
• A 20-year-old has a 30% risk of becoming disabled before the age of 65 and spine-related disorders are a major cause. Once a person becomes disabled, they are 71% more likely to eventually reach the poverty level compared to their peers. At the onset of disability, personal finances immediately begin to dwindle notwithstanding subsidies and public assistance. For all claimants, disability leads to a 23% decline in annual earnings and an 11% reduction in after-tax income.
“By inspiring and funding research that reveals innovative ways to prevent spine-related disability, through efforts to educate and build global awareness, and with a collective voice on policy issues, the North American Spine Foundation will benefit us all,” says Reed.
During its first year, the foundation anticipates offering US$90,000 in spine research grants and hosting a Spine Foundation Research Summit for researchers and other key stakeholders. In its second year, it plans to offer US$300,000 in research grants, including funding a pilot cohort treatment study with employer cooperation. That year, it will expand its summit to include 150 top international spine researchers and other key stakeholders. In subsequent years, the foundation will fund millions of dollars in spine research, offer educational programming and see the results of funded projects published in respected peer-reviewed journals and presented at major clinical meetings.
The North American Spine Foundation promotes the virtues and benefits of an integrative and collaborative system of care including diagnostic, surgical, nonsurgical, perioperative and preventive measures to achieve an efficient restoration of function. The Spine Foundation will take the lead as the bridge-builder between allshareholder groups, laying a foundation of understanding, cooperation and a common goal of efficiently preventing disability and restoring function, preventing individual financial loss, as well as preserving public resources and economic growth.