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Mark Woodward, George Institute for Global Health


Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), such as arthritis, fractures, and low back pain are recognized as one of the leading causes of disability worldwide, with significant impacts on quality of life, work productivity and health costs.  In the UK, osteoarthritis (OA), and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) cost >£2.5 billion a year and this figure is expected to rise still further. In China, MSDs accounted for a quarter of total adult disability in 2010. Despite this, little is known about the epidemiology of MSDs.

The China Kadoorie Biobank (CKB) study is a large prospective study of 0.5 million adults recruited from 10 areas in China, with extensive data (e.g. questionnaire and physical measurements) and blood samples collected at baseline ( All participants are being followed up through linkage to death and diseases registries and to health insurance databases for coded episodes of hospitalisation. By 1 Jan 2016, about 46,000 cases of MSDs had been recorded among the CKB participants, including 15,000 low back pain, 6500 osteoporotic fractures, 1100 RA and 1200 gout.  


The project will involve comprehensive review of the relevant literature, standardisation of outcomes, planning and undertaking statistical analysis, and writing scientific reports/manuscript. The specific focus of the project can be refined to match the interests of the candidate but should be within the following aspects:

  1. To describe patterns of MSDs in the CKB population, including compositions, distributions by age, gender, urban/rural residence and other baseline factors (such as body weight and height);
  2. To investigate the relationship of potential conventional risk factors, such as occupation, physical activity, smoking, alcohol, diet, obesity, hypertension, diabetes, with risks of different types of MSDs;
  3. To use genomics data to identify genetic loci which are related to the risk of MSDs and to assess the possible interactions between different environmental factors and genetic and risk factors on the risks of different types of MSDs.


The project will provide an extensive range of training opportunities through attending specific courses, meetings, seminars and conferences. There may be opportunities to become involved in fieldwork in China, depending on the direction and development of the project. It is expected the study findings will augment other research or instigate novel lines of investigation within CKB.


A higher degree in medicine, epidemiology, statistics, public health or other related areas.  Previous statistical training/experience is necessary. Students should also have a strong interest in musculoskeletal epidemiology.