German MSD campaign incorporates IWH systematic review findings

About impact case studies

This impact case study is part of a series that illustrates the diffusion, uptake and outcomes of Institute for Work & Health research, based upon our research impact model. The model differentiates three types of impact:
Type 1: Evidence of diffusion of research
Type 2: Evidence of research informing decision-making at the policy or organizational level
Type 3: Evidence of societal impact

This is a Type 1 case study

Published: November 2010

German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV), which administers Germany’s workers’ compensation system, has been running public campaigns addressing priority accident prevention issues since 2003. The focus of its fourth prevention campaign, running in 2013 and 2014, is the prevention of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).

Campaign planning started in 2009, and it included a review of the literature by the German Society of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (DGAUM). The Institute for Work & Health (IWH)’s systematic reviews dealing with ergonomics and MSDs figured prominently in that part of the literature review focusing on prevention.

The preparations for our new DGUV prevention campaign on MSDs fully used the IWH systematic reviews in this area, says Walter Eichendorf, deputy director-general at DGUV. Systematic reviews of the standard achieved by IWH are the best way to open a topic, to get the knowledge available around the world, and to build the ground for intervention.

IWH has conducted a number of systematic reviews dealing with MSDs. They include a review of interventions in health-care settings to protect musculoskeletal health and another on upper extremity musculoskeletal disorders, both led by Scientific Director Dr. Ben Amick. 

The results of the literature review were discussed with experts from a number of countries at the DGUV Conference on MSDs, held in Dresden in October 2009. IWH’s Dr. Amick was invited to give a keynote address on effective interventions to prevent work-related MSDs based upon the results of IWH’s systematic reviews. Hardly any research institute around the world can match the knowledge on prevention of MSDs available at IWH, Eichendorf says. Therefore, we asked Ben to present this keynote at the Dresden conference.

DGUV brought the research together to identify key issues and general themes for the MSD prevention campaign.

DGUV regularly turns to IWH reviews

The use of IWH systematic reviews by Germany’s DGUV is not a first. At DGUV, we have checked every single systematic review that has come out of IWH since 2004, and we have used all of them, Eichendorf says. For example, DGUV’s project on the contribution of prevention to rehabilitation was based on the 2004 IWH review on return to work led by Dr. Renée-Louise Franche. And its fact sheets on the economics of prevention “extensively used” the 2007 IWH review on OHS interventions with economic evaluations led by Dr. Emile Tompa.

Why does DGUV rely on IWH systematic reviews to the degree that it does? Eichendorf explains: In our globalized world, we must share prevention knowledge. It would be inefficient to undertake research or an intervention without checking the available knowledge world-wide. But it is necessary to be able to judge the quality of the information to avoid being misled. The IWH systematic reviews are quality-controlled, high-level studies that everyone in every country can safely rely on.