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SIP 2017 - Key Statement

Dr. Saskia Decuman – National Institute for Health and Disability Insurance, Belgium

"Participation of people suffering from (chronic) pain is one of the points of attention of the centre of knowledge in work incapacity of the National Institute Of Health and Disability Insurance (NIHDI, Belgium). Several studies are currently being launched in with focus is on how to reintegrate this people into the labour force."


Dr. Saskia Decuman
Expert Research and Development, Deptartment of Benefits of the National Institute for Health and Disability Insurance
INA MI - RIZIV

Belgium has one of the highest prevalence of chronic pain. Moreover the problem is significant in people within the labour active age. Consequently we have high absenteeism (21% does not work due to a pain-related problem) and presenteeism (more than 1/3 is limited in functioning while at work) (Breikvik, 2006; WIV, 2008). Nevertheless research shows that this people want to work (VPP, 2014). In the figures about work incapacity MSD are found as one of the major causes of sickness absence, with pain without any doubt as one of the most significant contributing factors. But also in other diseases like cancer we see that, as survival augments focus is also on participation and coping with factors such as pain.

The center of knowledge in work incapacity, installed in the Department of Benefits of the National Institute of Health and Disability Insurance (NIHDI), focuses since some years on this topic in the study program they launch. This program is executed in collaboration with experts and serves policy development. Some months ago a research was finalised in which the current situation on the social-professional reintegration of chronic pain patients was mapped. The results of this project are used in several follow-up studies the centre has launched in 2016-217. In this studies, the focus will be on development of the trajectory to work for people with pain followed-up in Belgian pain centres. Besides that we plan to support several research projects on cancer and return to work (RTW). In all projects attention will be on early intervention, transmurality, communication between stakeholders.

Besides research, the NIHDI foresees formal systems which stimulate RTW. One of the tools is the possibility to RTW in an adapted way (level of time, task, …), while remaining on work incapacity. This gives important benefits for employer and employee (eg. earlier RTW). The NIHDI has also conventions with regional employment services and the social insurance companies to support updates of competences, and education to another job, in order to make sure the insured worker can, nevertheless his disability RTW. Reintegration to the former job within the same employer as first objective, but if not possible other options are elaborated.

Dr Decuman is OT and MSc in medical-social sciences (health education and promotion). In 2014 she achieved a Phd degree for the work she performed on “work participation in people with systemic sclerosis” at the department of Rheumatology of the Ghent University. Currently, she is expert research and development at the Department of Benefits (NIHDI).

She is scientific coordinator of the center of knowledge in work incapacity which has as main aims (inter)national networking and supporting research in order to be able to guide policy. Beside that she’s project leader for the implementation of the disability management curriculum as developed by the National Institute of Disability Management and Research (Canada). With this educational framework the NIHDI wants to support their stakeholders to develop the necessary competences in job retention and reintegration.