EU Prioritizes Rheumatic, Musculoskeletal Diseases in Next Agenda

European Alliance of Associations for Rheumatology (EULAR)

Why are RMDs an issue for Europe?

RMDs, often dubbed 'the invisible diseases', affect approximately 120 million Europeans, constituting one in five individuals across the continent. Despite their prevalence, there remains a significant lack of awareness among policymakers and the general public, leading to their frequent neglect in political and financial agendas. However, the impact of RMDs is far-reaching, contributing to physical disability, chronic health conditions, and substantial economic burdens, amounting to an estimated 240 billion Euros annually.

Furthermore, RMDs not only pose a direct threat to individual health but also contribute to the development of high-mortality Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and mental health disorders. Alarmingly, RMDs represent over 50% of Years Lived with Disabilities (YLDs) in Europe and are responsible for approximately 38% of all occupational diseases.

A comprehensive RMD strategy addressing quality of care, research, and social policy

Recognising the gravity of this situation, EULAR calls upon the European Union and national governments to develop comprehensive RMD strategies. The EULAR 2024 - 2029 European Manifesto has already garnered support from multiple MEPs, who recognise the urgent need for action in addressing the challenges posed by RMDs, particularly in quality of care, research, and social policy.

The strategies developed should encompass various areas, including improving prevention, early diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation interventions for RMDs. EULAR advocates for prioritising RMDs within the EU's 'Healthier Together – NCD Initiative' and national NCD plans, as well as addressing the chronic shortage of rheumatologists and healthcare professionals specialised in rheumatology in order to improve standards of quality of care.

As RMDs can affect people of all ages throughout their lifespan, EULAR emphasises the importance of social policies aimed at mitigating the burden of RMDs on health-related quality of life, education, and employment. This includes recognising RMDs as a leading cause of disability, promoting inclusive and flexible education and workplaces, and increasing funding for improved mobility and accessibility measures.

In order to advance not just rheumatology, but the medical field as a whole, EULAR calls for the establishment of an ambitious research agenda targeting the causes, treatment, and multidisciplinary care models for RMDs. This includes launching a dedicated 'Inflammation, non-communicable diseases, and comorbidities' European Partnership under Horizon Europe and strengthening support for RMD-related European Reference Networks (ERNs).

Together, EULAR, its member organisations, and its partners are committed to driving forward a European response that prioritises the health and well-being of all citizens.


EULAR is the European umbrella organisation representing scientific societies, health professional associations and organisations for people with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases (RMDs). EULAR aims to reduce the impact of RMDs on individuals and society, as well as improve RMD treatments, prevention, and rehabilitation. To this end, EULAR fosters excellence in rheumatology education and research, promotes the translation of research advances into daily care, and advocates for the recognition of the needs of those living with RMDs by EU institutions.

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