LIVE on the Third World Congress of Sports Physical Therapy Facebook page, I welcome Professor Ewa Roos to discuss the GLA:D Program. Professor Roos is an internationally leading researcher and change agent in the field of musculoskeletal health. She has been able to both produce high-impact clinical research and translate that research into clinical tools that are easily and effectively implemented in hospitals, primary care clinics and even community settings in municipalities.

In this episode, we discuss:

-The three components that make up the GLA:D program

-Are GLA:D exercises superior to performing any other form of exercise?

-The benefits of participating in group therapy

-A sneak preview into Professor Roo’s talk at the World Congress of Sports Physical Therapy

-And so much more!


3rd World Congress of Sports Physical Therapy

GLA:D Program

Ewa Roos

For more information on Professor Roos:

Professor Roos has a passion for advancing the frontiers of knowledge in muscle and joint health to improve the quality of life of those with musculoskeletal disease and to improve health care delivery for these conditions. Her focus is on patient involvement, non-surgical and surgical treatments and clinical care pathways.

A decade ago Professor Roos and colleagues started to investigate the evidence underpinning the outcomes from arthroscopic knee surgery. When they found very little evidence to support the ever-increasing frequency of these surgical procedures, they started investigation of the efficacy of arthroscopic surgery compared with sham surgery or structured exercises through a series of high quality randomised controlled trials performed in collaboration with Danish and Norwegian orthopaedic surgeons and physiotherapists. To the surprise of many and the concern of some, the results of these and other research projects have found that arthroscopic surgery for the degenerative knee is no better than sham surgery or non-surgical treatments for improving pain and loss of function.

Professor Roos is an internationally leading researcher and change agent in the field of musculoskeletal health. She has been able to both produce high-impact clinical research and translate that research into clinical tools that are easily and effectively implemented in hospitals, primary care clinics and even community settings in municipalities. She has also served as an expert on clinical guideline committees for osteoarthritis (Sweden and Norway 2003, Sweden 2012, 2017–, Osteoarthritis Research Society International 2014, China 2017), knee osteoarthritis (Denmark 2012) and meniscus pathology (Denmark 2015), thereby impacting the delivery of clinical care in the Nordic countries and worldwide.

One of the principal outcomes from her research has been the development of the Good Life with osteoArthritis in Denmark (GLA:D®) project for people with knee and hip pain. The GLA:D® project is an outstanding example of how to successfully implement evidence-based clinical guidelines in primary health care practice and municipalities. Its underlying principles focus on patient education, patient empowerment, exercises and self-management. Since 2013, more than 1000 clinicians nationwide have been trained in delivering GLA:D® care to about 30,000 patients, who report remarkable improvements in health in terms of less pain, less disability, consumption of less pain medication, increase in physical activity, reduced sick leave and return to work ( The GLA:D® project now serves as a template for establishing similar initiatives in other countries including Canada (2015), Australia (2016) and China (2017).

Professor Roos’ research unit at University of Southern Denmark now has 20 members, attracting international recognition for its involvement in evidence-based medicine, development of patient-reported outcome measures and pioneering research in the field of joint injury, osteoarthritis and the role of surgery and exercise in treatment.

Professor Roos plays an active role in breaking down the barriers between disciplines and forging interdisciplinary teams to collaborate on addressing key research questions of common interest. She is open-minded and inclusive, welcoming the opportunity to work with other disciplines and professional groups – a trait not always found in academia – to ensure the highest standards and the best possible outcomes for people suffering from musculoskeletal disease. To this end, she has been integral to the creation of the new Center for Health in Muscles and Joints at the University of Southern Denmark, which aims to become the leading institution in Denmark for information exchange, interdisciplinary research and innovation in the domain of musculoskeletal health.

Professor Roos has published many articles in lay language targeting patients with osteoarthritis, often in collaboration with the Swedish and Danish Rheumatism Associations and she has made hundreds of appearances in printed and electronic media and TV. She takes every opportunity to increase political awareness of the impact of muscle and joint disease for the individual and the society and the proven benefits of physical activity for those with these conditions in Denmark and internationally, to raise its visibility through public debate, and to advocate for its recognition as a public health priority to offer treatment of muscle and joint disease equal to that of other chronic diseases including heart disease and diabetes.

In 2014, her contribution to public health was recognised when she won the OARSI (Osteoarthritis Research Society International) Clinical Research Award for her “outstanding work in exercise as prevention and treatment of joint pain, joint injury and osteoarthritis”. This is the first time this highly competitive award was given to someone other than a medical doctor and to a Danish researcher. In addition, in 2014, she was awarded the Queen Ingrid of Denmark’s prize for outstanding arthritis research by Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, and the Danish Rheumatism Association (Gigtforeningen).

Professor Roos is the author of 205 peer-reviewed publications. She has published in high impact journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine, the British Medical Journal and The Lancet. Her work has been cited in total 10952 times with 1 paper cited more than 1100 times and 23 additional papers cited more than 100 times. Her h-index is 54 (January 2018). She has supervised 21 PhD theses to completion with her students having professional backgrounds in medicine, physiotherapy, nursing and sports. Four of her PhD students have received awards and/or prestigious post-doctoral funding from the Swedish or Danish Medical Research Councils.

Her success in attracting project funding is testament to the value that funders place on her research. In total, she has attained over 27 million SEK, 10 million DKK, 0.6 million AUD, 0.8 million CAD, 0.9 million USD and 4.2 million Euro as applicant or co-applicant since 2005.

Read the full transcript below:

Karen Litzy:                   00:00                My name is Karen Litzy. I’m a physio therapist. I’m based in New York City and I am so happy to be on the Third World Congress of Sports Physical Therapy Facebook page interviewing Professor Ewa Roos. And we are going to talk a little bit about her background and the GLA:D program and a sneak peek at what she’s going to be speaking about at the Third World Congress, which is October 3rd through the fifth in Vancouver, Canada. So Professor Roos, thank you so much for taking the time out and joining us today on this Facebook live.

Ewa Roos:                     00:44                Thank you. It’s very exciting to meet you Karen.

Karen Litzy:                   00:47                Yes. And for all of you who are on watching, if you have questions, we can see them. So feel free to put questions in as we get a little bit more into the conversation. But before we get to the meat of what our interview is about, can you talk a little bit more about yourself?

Ewa Roos:                                             Okay. So what do you want to know?

Karen Litzy:                                           Well, let’s talk about how long you’ve been a physio therapist and kind of what led you into the work that you’re doing now.

Ewa Roos:                     01:16                Okay. So I’ve been a physiotherapist since I graduated back in 1981. So that’s a really long time ago. And the reason why I moved into this area was because I was very much involved in sports. I went to a sports high school and I competed on the national team in my sport, which is something called orienteering when you’re running in the forest with the use of a map and a compass. And I got an obvious injury and suddenly I couldn’t run as much as I wanted to run. And I visited a number of sports medicine doctors and they actually can’t tell me either and that built up some frustration and eventually actually have surgery for these overuse injuries. That was not very smart either. So that really sparked my interest and then my career. And then getting a degree in physical therapy was the fastest way of getting to work with what I wanted to work with Sports medicine.

Karen Litzy:                   02:21                And what took you from that, from getting your degree to where you are now? Professor, researcher.

Ewa Roos:                     02:28                When I think back I realized that I had aspirations of becoming a researcher already as a kid. I published my first paper back in the 80s. But it didn’t really take off until I found a very good supervisor in the mid nineties and that’s good advice, I think. Find yourself a good supervisor.

Karen Litzy:                   02:57                And so you’ve been conducting research in that since the 80s. And can you tell everyone where you currently are working?

Ewa Roos:                     03:05                So I’m working at University of Southern Denmark.

Karen Litzy:                   03:09                And that takes me into the GLA:D program. So before we start talking more about it, can you let the listeners know what does GLA:D stand for?

Ewa Roos:                     03:22                So GLA:D stands for good life with osteoarthritis in Denmark.

Karen Litzy:                   03:26                And when did this program start?

Ewa Roos:                     03:30                So I think I would like to start by saying that while I am a researcher, GLA:D is not really a research because GLA:D came out of the frustration I felt knowing about all the evidence that was out there and sitting on clinical guideline committees in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, China and globally. And we could see that all guideline committees, they’re recommended patient education, exercise and weight loss if you were overweight as first line treatment for osteoarthritis. And there were lots of money spent on these clinical guidelines, but nothing changed in clinical practice because of these guidelines. So GLA:D actually came out of pure frustration and we realized that something needs to be done to help clinicians implement these clinical guidelines into their practice. That was the beginning of the GLA:D program and that was in 2013.

Karen Litzy:                   04:41                Okay, so it’s yourself, Soren Skou. Yes, I pronounced that correctly.

Ewa Roos:                     04:48                Soren Skou was my PhD student at that time. And Soren is a very young, smart, energetic young man and the combination of the two of us was really good to make things happen.

Karen Litzy:                   05:05                Okay. So before we get into, and we’ll talk about some of the discussions on social media regarding the GLA:D program in a little bit, but before we get into that, can you talk a little bit more about what is involved in the program and how it works?

Ewa Roos:                     05:23                Okay, so the whole aim is really to improve quality of care for patients with osteoarthritis and to do so we use three components. The first is that we educate clinicians in Denmark, it’s mostly physiotherapist. It could basically also be other clinicians who have the sufficient background and knowledge about osteoarthritis and knowledge about exercise as treatment. So we have a two day course to educate about osteoarthritis and about delivery of exercises. That’s the first component. The second component is then what these clinicians deliver in the clinical practice. So that is patient education and exercise therapy, which is group based and supervised by a clinician built on evidence. And the third very important component is that we evaluate the outcomes with an electronic registry. But I would again like to point out that this is not per se a research project because this is uncontrolled and this is real life. This is what happens across a nation.

Karen Litzy:                   06:46                I think it’s important to note that this is not like a randomized controlled trial, you’re collecting the data that you are finding from clinicians, from actual patients sort of in the trenches so to speak.

Ewa Roos:                     06:59                Yes. So if you run most controlled trial, everything is very much controlled. That’s not the case when you do it in real life clinical practice, but GLA:D it’s a minimum, it’s a core package of patient education and a 12 exercise sessions. But as a clinician you’re always the one who determine what your specific patient need. So you have to deliver the patient education and you have to deliver the exercise, but you are absolutely free to add whatever you think your patient may need. They may need manual therapy to improve the range of motion of the joint or something else. That is absolutely fine. You can also send them to a dietician if you think that would be beneficial for them, et cetera.

Karen Litzy:                   07:53                And so sorry for that. We may hear horns and sirens because I’m in New York City, so I apologize everyone. So as far as the program is concerned, so it’s not like a clinical practice guideline but rather a full program. So I guess my question is if clinical practice GLA:D guidelines weren’t being followed, how do we know that the program is going to be something that’s sustainable and followed? Do you know what I mean? Like if therapists were like I’m not following these clinical practice guidelines.

Ewa Roos:                     08:31                So, I’m not really sure I understand your question. But, so I think that’s probably why to be able to answer that or respond to that question I would say that it’s basically that we can see that clinicians want to take the courses and we can see that they actually register patients in the registry and we can evaluate the outcome. And that’s a very good way of measuring the quality of what’s being delivered. We can see how many sessions they have attended, for example, and things like that.

Karen Litzy:                   09:06                Yeah, yeah, exactly. So if I’m a clinician, so if I’m looking at it from the clinician standpoint, for me, it gives me some accountability. Right? So it’s like, of course we’re always accountable to our patients and should be to ourselves. But it’s always good to know that you’re being held accountable and being held to a certain standard for your patient in order to kind of be part of the program, if you will. And I think that’s important because otherwise, I mean, human beings, right? We get lazy and we’re not following things as best as we should. So I think that’s an important component of the program.

Ewa Roos:                     09:55                I would say that the longer we go on, the greater is the part that has to do with quality assurance.

Karen Litzy:                   10:03                Absolutely. Yeah. And so, you know, let’s get into some of these discussions on social media now that we have a better idea of what the program is, so some of the discussions are regarding whether the GLA:D program is superior to performing other forms of exercise. But what are your thoughts on this?

Ewa Roos:                     10:24                Yeah. Okay. So when you do a research study, the primary outcome can be pain relief. And if you look at randomized control trials and if you look at the effect that you find from different exercise program, there are no studies showing that one type of exercise is superior to another program when it comes to pain relief. So when the neuro muscular exercise program that we used in GLA:D is being compared to other exercise program, we can say it’s similarly effective, but it’s not more effective than other exercise programs. But what is interesting is that we can see that when we deliver it in clinical practice, one of the thing is that we’re able to teach it to physiotherapists with very different backgrounds. You know, we have taught more than thousand physiotherapists in Denmark and some of them are real musculoskeletal experts, but some are not.

Ewa Roos:                     11:28                And just being able to teach a program to clinicians with very varying background that is in itself, something that requires a good framework for the program. I think. So that is one aspect and then we can see that we’re actually able to have about 25% pain relief directly after program. So we can kind of duplicate the findings that we have in randomized controlled trials. But what I think is even more important is that we can maintain that improvement at one year. And that is something that we don’t always see in randomized controlled trials actually. So in some regards it looks like we’re doing better than in the randomized controlled trials. And this is not a research project. So I can’t tell you why I can just say that the clinical findings are really good and encouraging because it looks like there must be some kind of a better understanding of the disease from the patient’s perspective. And there are some indications that there are some lifestyle changes. One third for example, report that they have increased their physical activity level. We can see that one out of three stop taking painkillers and we can see that there is a lot less sick leave, especially among the knee OA patients at one year.

Karen Litzy:                   12:58                And do you feel that, at least in Denmark, I’m assuming if a thousand therapists have gotten through this, this is a pretty recognized program in the country. So do you feel like patients have more buy in so to speak because it is a recognized program?

Ewa Roos:                     13:17                That’s a very interesting question. And my feeling is that there was more buy in from patients, from clinicians and from those referring to the program that is general practitioners and orthopedic surgeons. What the general practitioners tell me is that they really like to refer to program where they know the content of what is being delivered. They don’t really like to refer to a physical therapy as a black box treatment that they don’t really know what is going to be delivered. And I guess to some extent they may be right because there has been delivered passive treatments for which there is really no evidence in these patients.

Karen Litzy:                   14:07                And the other thing that I find interesting about the program is that it’s in a group setting. So you have a lot of people together in one group and I also wonder does that also foster, first of all, it’s a nice sense of community, you have a support group. Again, accountability on the patients. If it makes them more accountable, they’re doing their exercises, right? And they’ve got the support.

Ewa Roos:                     14:36                Yeah. You can see that when you go and audit the clinics that you can kind of see the interplay between the patients. And there was some kind of positive peer pressure, you know. And for example, we do some exercises on the floor very deliberately and there may be older patients who come in and say, I cannot get down on the floor because I haven’t been on the floor for the last 10 years. You know? And the physio can say, well that’s fine, you don’t have to, you know. But after a few sessions, that person will be on the floor, not with the help of the physio, but inspired by the other patients and as some kind of side effect, you know, they’re also learn how to get up with the help of a chair and they get less fear of falling because they know they can get up again.

Karen Litzy:                   15:22                Right. And I look at that as such a positive for the program, but also for the patient, the individual patient, because then they’re more likely to do the exercises. I’m sure part of it is they’re doing exercises on their own. I would assume it’s not just twice a week or however many times a week you’re coming into the program.

Ewa Roos:                     15:44                So what we told them actually is that this is twice a week. And we do not require them to do anything at home if they want to, sure they can do it. But there is no requirement of home exercises. And I think that makes it maybe, but this is pure speculation, a better experience because you feel sure if you’re more secure about what you do, you have someone to hold your hand because it’s painful to start exercising when you have osteoarthritis and you ask your body to do things you haven’t done for a long time. And many people get anxious if they should exercise at home and they also feel bad conscience if they don’t do it. So actually I think it seems to be a better experience to tell people do this twice a week. We know it will be better if I did it three times a week. But we also know that for most people it’s not possible to squeeze that into their daily life. So it’s a very pragmatic decision to say twice a week because that is what most people can do. It’s not the best, but it is pragmatic.

Karen Litzy:                   16:55                And do you find that your class attendance is always very high? Meaning are there a lot of dropouts?

Ewa Roos:                     17:04                Yeah. So if we look at the last annual report that I have access to was from 2017 we are about cleaning of the data for 2018 but that was nearly about 30,000 patients. And we can see that eight out of 10 patients have completed at least 10 supervised sessions. That is very good, I think.

Karen Litzy:                   17:27                Very good. Yeah. Because you know, people always say exercises are great, but if you’re not going to do it it’s not going to make any bit of a change. Now is there anything else about the GLA:D program that you’d like to talk about and let everyone know about before we talked more about what you’re going to be speaking about at the conference?

Ewa Roos:                     17:53                So I think it’s important to say that the GLA:D program would not be the success it is if it didn’t have the buy in from the clinicians and that the clinicians wouldn’t feel that it really supports their clinical practice. And because it’s the clinicians who take ownership of the program and it’s them who kind of market it in their local areas, it’s them who inform the general practitioners. So GLA:D is really more of a grass root movement or bottom up initiative or whatever you would like to call it. We actually had no, or very, very little funding to get this whole thing started. We actually only had funding to set up an electronic registry. That was it. The rest was just pure frustration, hard work and wonderful support by all the clinicians who have embarked on this and they feel that it really eases their daily practice and it has also made it possible for them to attract new patients. So it’s actually been a good business for them in that sense.

Karen Litzy:                   19:06                Yeah, and I also liked that you mentioned earlier that if you’ve got a patient taking part in the GLA:D program, that it doesn’t mean that you’re not perhaps seeing them for one on one therapy as well.

Ewa Roos:                     19:19                So GLA:D, it’s a framework, you know, and there are some core things that you have to deliver, but if you would like to deliver extra things on that because you are the clinician, you’re the only one that knows the patient. I think that’s really, really important to stress. And I think this pragmatic approach and this flexible approach is part of the success. And that may come because we have all worked for very long in the clinic and know what it’s like to be in the clinic and we know that it needs to work. So for example, if it was a research project, we also do functional tests. Like we look at walking speed and chair stands just for example. And if you did that in a research project, you would do three attempt, you know, but we don’t do that. We only do one attempt because that is what you can do in clinical practice. So, we have tried to do everything in a way that we evaluate the outcome. We can check the quality, but we’ve done it with minimum resources on the therapist.

Karen Litzy:                   20:38                And oftentimes that’s what it’s like when you’re in a clinic.

Ewa Roos:                     20:41                You need to make your ends meet during the daily work because else you won’t do it.

Karen Litzy:                   20:51                Exactly. Exactly. And I think it’s also worth mentioning that the GLA:D program is not only in Denmark, it’s also in let me see if I can remember Australia, China, Canada.

Ewa Roos:                     21:07                Yes. This year in April, Switzerland will come on board. In November in New Zealand will come on board.

Karen Litzy:                   21:16                Great. And the thing that I found really interesting is in China is that it’s physicians who are running the program, their orthopedic surgeons, which is in your head, you think, well, that was interesting. It’s competition, so to speak. But I think it’s, I think that’s great. And hopefully in other countries, hopefully you guys will expand in other countries in the near future as well. All right, so let’s get to what you’re going to be speaking about at the Third World Congress of sport physical therapy. So can you give us a little preview?

Ewa Roos:                     21:55                Okay. So we haven’t been talking much about research. We’ve been talking about implementing clinical guidelines in clinical practice. But I think I have been so fortunate that I actually grew up academic department of Orthopedics and that has put me in a position that I’ve had many close collaborations with orthopedic surgeons and we have across professions then been interested in surgery and exercise therapy as treatment for different kinds of problems, mostly knee problems. So, over the years I have been involved in randomized controlled trials where we have compared surgery to exercise for an acute ACL tear in the young active populations, for a meniscal tear in the middle aged population and for severe osteoarthritis in people that we have provided with nonsurgical treatment, comprehensive package and then randomized them to have a total knee replacement in addition or not. So I will talk about the outcomes of these trials and I will talk about how you as a clinician can use these results in a shared decision making with your patients.

Karen Litzy:                   23:20                And I think that’s so important, having that shared decision making, being honest with your patients and giving them all points of view so that they can then make the decision that’s best for them.

Ewa Roos:                     23:31                Yes, because there are pros and cons with different treatment strategies and there is not one treatment strategy that fits all patients, but I think it’s really good if patients can get informed so they’re able to make a treatment decision that is right for them.

Karen Litzy:                   23:52                Well I am definitely looking forward to that and you know, as we speak, I am seeing and a 12 year old girl who had an ACL tear with subsequent surgery, and I see a lot of ACL patients. So that is something that I always try and give, you know, all views so that they can make the best decision. And sometimes that involves being the quote unquote bad guy.

Ewa Roos:                                             What do you mean by bad guy?

Karen Litzy:                                           Well, not bad guy, but sometimes telling them things that they don’t want to hear saying to the patient because you’re trying to give them all points of view and sometimes patients don’t want to see all points of view. I think oftentimes, and this has been my experience with patients is they want to hear the point of view that is going to confirm what they’ve already decided without hearing all the points of view

Ewa Roos:                                             Confirmation bias.

Karen Litzy:                                           Right. And so sometimes you have to if you want to be open and honest with your patient and give them all of the information that they can take with them to make that decision. Sometimes you have to tell them things that maybe they’re not wanting to accept.

Ewa Roos:                     25:15                It would be very beneficial if we could develop educational packages or educational tools for young patients as well. Just as we have for osteoarthritis patients. That will be really beneficial. But it’s a hard nut to crack because when you’re young, you think you’re invincible and your perspective is not very long. You want things to happen here now or yesterday would have been even better.

Karen Litzy:                   25:43                Well, I’m definitely looking forward to that because I’m always looking for better ways to communicate with my patients and really to be able to give them all of the information they need. So I am definitely looking forward to your talk.  And we’ve got a couple of comments that I’ll just read. All right. I am going to not say this person’s name right, but Meredith Gosh, I hope I said that correctly. She said, your work is incredible. Your work is incredible. You truly make the world a better place. So proud to know you. Hope to see you soon.

Karen Litzy:                   26:47                And then another one from Jay F Esqulare who is part of the world Congress, said you’re a pioneer in the world of physio therapy, knee injuries, osteoarthritis and rehab programs such as GLA:D, so amazing to have you at SPC 2019. So, hopefully, everyone who is listening will now be a little bit more curious. Will want to come to Vancouver to listen to your great talk. So again, it’s Vancouver October 3rd through the fifth of this year, 2019 in Vancouver. All the information is right here on the Facebook page. So you can go and click on the link on the Facebook page and we’ll even put it underneath this video. And if it’s okay with Professor Roos, we can also maybe put some links to the GLA:D program as well.

Ewa Roos:                     27:50                You can link to GLA:D Canada and GLA:D Australia and you will find information in English. That might also be a good thing.

Karen Litzy:                   27:57                Awesome. Yeah, that would probably be great, we’re going to be in Canada even better. So in English.

Ewa Roos:                     28:03                If you link to GLA:D Switzerland, you will also get information in French, German, and Italian.

Karen Litzy:                   28:10                Awesome. So we’ve got a lot of languages covered there which is wonderful. So Professor Roos thank you so much for taking the time out of your day today and coming on, and I look forward to seeing you in Vancouver in a couple of months.

Ewa Roos:                     28:24                Nice talking to you Karen.

Karen Litzy:                   28:27                Thanks so much. Bye everybody. Thanks so much for coming on and we’ll see you in a couple of weeks with another interview.



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©2019 Karen Litzy Physical Therapy PLLC.
©2019 Karen Litzy Physical Therapy PLLC.