The EULAR Brussels Forum


'Employment risks and impacts for Europeans with RMDs during the COVID-19 recession.'


Live broadcast! 12 October 2020, 14.00 – 15.30 CET




How can the EU best support Europeans living with RMDs to access and remain in work?


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To mark World Arthritis Day, a global awareness day held on 12 October each year, EULAR seeks discussion with members of the EU policy arena, helping to create and maintain awareness around topics directly concerning people with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases (RMDs) in society.

To this end, EULAR began an annual EULAR Brussels Conference in 2010; in 2020, this meeting is renamed the EULAR Brussels Forum, providing a fully online space for ideas and views to be exchanged and shared with society at large and thereby contribute to bringing change forward.


Rheumatic Muskuloskeletal Diseases (RMDs) are the leading occupational disease in Europe – they account for about 60% of all health problems in the workplace – and they are the biggest cause of sick leave and premature retirement due to physical disability.[1]

The exclusion of people with RMDs from the workplace affects their finances, self-esteem, and mental health, and has a major economic and societal cost. The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting recession represents a significant new threat to the participation of people living with RMD in the workforce.

To address this issue, the EULAR Brussels Forum, a digital debate, will be held on 12 October 2020 at 1400 CET to mark World Arthritis Day.

Moderated by Brussels-based journalist, Cathy Smith, the forum is an online discussion with six panelists, each representing a different perspective on the topic.

The event will explore the challenges faced by people living with RMDs, and the practical and policy measures that can meet their employment needs. It takes place against the backdrop of important policy developments at EU level, including ongoing negotiations over the COVID Recovery Plan, as well as the contents of the new Pharmaceuticals Strategy for Europe and Disability Strategy.




EULAR Brussels Forum 2020
Integrating RMDs in the workplace

(CET Time)
Welcome and introduction to the agenda

Introductory comments from Prof. Iain B. McInnes, EULAR President, on the ‘employment risks and impact for Europeans with RMDs during the COVID-19 recession’



Panel 1: Challenges and solutions for people with RMDs to access, remain in, and return to work in the COVID-19 recession

  • Peter Boyd, EULAR PARE
  • Sarah Copsey, Project Manager, Prevention and Research Unit, EU OSHA
  • Dr. Johanna Callhoff, German Rheumatism Research Center (DRFZ)
  • Prof. Olivia Wu, William R Lindsay Chair of Health Economics, Glasgow University



Panel 2: The role of the European Union in increasing access to work for people living with RMDs

  • Dr. Francisco Jesús Alvarez Hidalgo, European Commission, DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion
  • Roberta Metsola, Member of the European Parliament
  • Prof. Iain B. McInnes, CBE, EULAR President



Closing remarks: moderator and Prof. Iain B. McInnes



Event finishes





Cathy Smith
Prof. Iain B. McInnes, CBE, EULAR President 
Iain McInnes is a global leader in the field of arthritis research. He is Muirhead Professor of Medicine and Versus Arthritis Professor of Rheumatology in the University of Glasgow. Over two decades, he has led numerous clinical trials and pathogenesis investigation programmes in inflammatory arthritis at the international level. He leads the European Roadmap programme that is defining the research agenda for European rheumatology for the next decade and in 2019 became President of EULAR.


Peter Boyd, Arthritis Ireland and Member of the People with Arthritis and Rheumatism in Europe at EULAR
Peter Boyd was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia in 2011 and began volunteering almost immediately across all Arthritis Ireland services. Peter was a Trustee of EULAR Young Patients from 2016-2020, advocating on behalf of patients across Ireland and Europe, and began working with Arthritis Ireland, which added to his work in sports media and voluntary roles with EULAR PARE.


Prof. Olivia Wu, William R Lindsay Chair of Health Economics, Glasgow University
Olivia Wu holds the William R Lindsay Chair of Health Economics at the University of Glasgow and is Director of the Health Economics and Health Technology Assessment Research Unit. Her research interest focuses on the areas of evidence synthesis, and the use of evidence synthesis in the context of economic evaluation and health technology assessment. In addition to her research, Olivia is Deputy Chair of the National Institute for Health Research Clinical Evaluation and Trials Committee and a member of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence Technology Appraisal Committee.


Sarah Copsey, Prevention and Research Unit, European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA)
Sarah has been employed as a project manager for the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) since 1998. Her recent work has been as coordinator of a major project on the ageing workforce and currently as a team member of the large-scale research activity on musculoskeletal disorders, where she is responsible for the area of working with chronic MSDs. Sarah’s academic background is in psychology and ergonomics.


Roberta Metsola, Member of the European Parliament
Roberta Metsola is a member of Group of the European People's Party and sits on the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. She was first elected to the European Parliament in 2013, becoming one of Malta's first female Members of the European Parliament. Professionally she is a lawyer who has specialised in European law and politics.


Dr. Francisco Jesús Alvarez Hidalgo, European Commission, DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion
F. Jesús Alvarez Hidalgo serves as a Policy Officer at the Health and Safety Unit of the European Commission, DG EMPL, in Luxembourg. He is in charge of the relations with the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) and also manages public health issues related to the workplace. Dr. Alvarez is a Medical Doctor with more than 25 years’ worth of experience in the field. Before joining the Commission he served as a doctor at Emergency Services, as a Medical Inspector of Social Security and as a Director of several public hospitals in Spain.


Dr. Johanna Callhoff, German Rheumatism Research Centre (DRFZ)
Dr Callhoff is a Senior Scientist in the Health Services Research Working Group in the Epidemiology Unit of the German Rheumatism Research Centre (DRFZ). She worked previously in the DRFZ’s Clinical Studies and Early Arthritis Cohorts Working Groups. Dr Callhoff is also currently the Head of the National Database and Head of Statistics of the National Database of the German Collaborative Arthritis Centres.

[1]Altman, RD, Early management of osteoarthritis. The American Journal of Managed Care (2010) 16(2): S41-47.

EULAR 2020 Brussels Forum

Topic 'Employment risks and impacts for Europeans with RMDs during the COVID-19 recession.'

YouTube live broadcast 12 October 2020 14.00 – 15.30 CET


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Through working together, EULAR and its member organisations in Europe, together with EU OSHA, will raise awareness around the risks of rheumatic and musculoskeletal disease development in the workplace - and at the same time highlight the opportunities there are to mitigate and manage these.

EULAR is a proud sponsor of the Lighten The Load campaign from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration of the European Union (EU OSHA).


The EULAR Brussels Forum past events

Learn more about the EULAR Brussels Conference previous events.