Arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions are large contributors to illness, pain and disability in Australia. Highly prevalent, they place a significant burden on the community, both economic and personal, including the use of hospital and primary care services, disruptions to daily life and lost productivity through disability. More than 6.1 million Australians are reported to have arthritis or a musculoskeletal condition. Most commonly reported conditions are back pain and various forms of arthritis. Almost 1.2 million of these are reported to have disability associated with their condition. In view of their large disease burden-the number of people affected and the high disability impact-Australian Health ministers declared arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions were declared a National Health Priority Area (NHPA) in July 2002.