UNDERSTANDING THE PROBLEM     

Work-loss due to ill-health continues to be a global concern, costing the UK economy alone £100bn per year. Successive governments have struggled to reduce the numbers of people unable to work due to ill-health. In part the problem is due to gaps in knowledge and understanding. This impedes implementation of evidence-based solutions, because those knowledge gaps are transferred to the policies and practices of the relevant systems (healthcare, employment and welfare). 

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A purely biomedical understanding of the work-health relationship has failed because it doesn’t acknowledge the trajectory of interactions involved between the worker with a common health problem and their environment, and does not harness the health-supportive aspects of work. It also lends itself to the view that work-relevant health problems are always a medical concern. It is now widely accepted over-medicalisation can keep people away from work unnecessarily. This is detrimental because the evidence shows “the longer someone is away from work, the less likely it is that they will return”.