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About the Musculoskeletal Network

The Musculoskeletal Network aims to improve equity of access and individual outcomes for people who have a range of musculoskeletal conditions in NSW.  A key initiative is to evaluate the tools and resources, including models of care and their implementation, in order to refine the interventions and ensure they meet the needs of communities across NSW.

Musculoskeletal Conditions

Musculoskeletal conditions are a group of chronic diseases that include arthritis and osteoporosis. Morbidity from overall musculoskeletal disorders affect almost 30% of the Australian population. It is estimated that more than six million Australians suffer from a musculoskeletal condition – with three million people with back problems, 1.8 million with osteoarthritis, 0.8 million at least with osteoporosis, and 0.5 million with rheumatoid arthritis. These are self-report data and it is known that many people with musculoskeletal conditions are not reflected in these estimates due to now having been told that is the cause of their pain, reduced functional ability or fragility facture.

Back pain is often of a non-specific origin and, contrary to popular belief, in these cases is best treated with continuation of low-intensity activities and simple analgesia in the acute phase. Arthritis is characterised by joint inflammation and degeneration. This leads to pain, stiffness, disability and deformity of the affected joint. In osteoporosis, low bone density results in decreased bone strength and bone fractures from minimal trauma. This also leads to pain, deformity, disability and premature mortality.

Children can also be affected by arthritis and other related inflammatory conditions with an estimated 6,000 children affected by juvenile arthritis alone in Australia. These conditions in Australians under the age of 16 years lead to pain, disability, loss of school days and other restrictions that in turn impact on opportunities in adulthood.

Musculoskeletal conditions have been identified as one of the eight National Health Priority Areas in Australia which recognises the major health and economic burden these conditions place on our communities.

Our People

Matthew Jennings

Matthew Jennings, Co-Chair
Director of Allied Health
Liverpool Hospital
South Western Sydney Local Health District

Chris Needs

Chris Needs, Co-Chair
Royal Prince Alfred Hospital
Sydney Local Health District

Ian Harris

Ian Harris, Co-Chair
Professor, Orthopaedics
Liverpool Hospital
South Western Sydney Local Health District

The ACI Musculoskeletal Network has more than 390 members, which includes doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, consumers, researchers, managers and policy makers.

The network works collaboratively with a wide range of organisations including the NSW Ministry of Health, Primary Health Networks, the Clinical Excellence Commission, Arthritis Australia, Osteoporosis Australia, Arthritis/Osteoporosis NSW, University of NSW, University of Sydney, Macquarie University, the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, the Kolling Institute and The George Institute for Global Health.



  • The ACI’s Model of care for the Osteoarthritis Chronic Care Program has undergone external evaluation and has been shown to improve options for care for people awaiting elective hip or knee joint replacement. At least 11% of people with knee arthritis can come off elective joint replacement surgery wait lists when they are supported to self-manage their arthritis and co-morbidities in an effective manner
  • The ACI Model of Care for the NSW Paediatric Rheumatology Network was launched by Emeritus Professor Kim Oates in 2013 and is now being implemented through a collaboration between the Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network, Hunter Children’s Hospital, Arthritis NSW/Osteoporosis, and ACI Musculoskeletal and Transition Care Networks.
  • The completion and launch of the model of care for the Management of People with Acute Low Back Pain.
  • Engagement of four primary health networks and their partner local health districts to implement the musculoskeletal models of care in primary care settings.
  • Development of a Graduate Certificate in Nursing (Musculoskeletal) in collaboration with the NSW Chief Nurse and the Australian College of Nursing.


The ACI Musculoskeletal Network was convened in early 2009 as the peak body advising the NSW Health system on the best way to improve services for the people of NSW with these musculoskeletal conditions.

The Network was created through amalgamation of the former NSW Chronic Care Program Musculoskeletal Clinical Expert Reference Group and the Greater Metropolitan Clinical Taskforce Orthopaedic Network.