Know Your Bones
In 2016 Garvan and Osteoporosis Australia launched Know Your Bones, an Australia-first, free online tool that helps consumers to understand their own risk of bone fracture.
Evidence-based and consumer-friendly, it takes approximately five minutes to complete, and empowers consumers to initiate discussions about bone health and osteoporosis with their GP.
The tool collects information about the user’s age, gender, weight or bone mineral density, history of fracture, history of recent falls, and lifestyle factors. All users (aged 18 and above) receive a summary for further discussion with their GP – and, for people aged 50 and above, the tool provides a personalised assessment of fracture risk over five and 10 years.
Osteoporosis, a disease of reduced bone strength and increased fracture risk, is a major national health issue for Australia, affecting more than 1.2 million Australians. Contrary to popular stereotypes, osteoporosis affects both men and women, and can affect individuals across a wide age range.
Importantly, proper management of osteoporosis could reduce the risk of a subsequent fracture by as much as 80%. Unfortunately, only 20% of women (and an even smaller percentage of men) who come to medical attention for a fracture are investigated for osteoporosis and treated to prevent further fractures.
Know Your Bones is underpinned by key research findings from Garvan’s Dubbo Osteoporosis Epidemiology Study, the world’s longest-running large-scale study of osteoporosis in men and women. The Dubbo Study was started in 1989 by Professor John Eisman and has been led by him ever since, with key support from Professor Jacqueline Center and Professor Tuan Nguyen, also of Garvan’s Bone Biology Division.
Know Your Bones is the inaugural project of the Bone Alliance, which was formed by Garvan and Osteoporosis Australia in October last year. The Alliance seeks to use innovation and education to address the major health issue of osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis National Action Plan
Garvan has been a driving force in the development of a new Osteoporosis National Action Plan, the result of a 12-month collaboration among a national alliance of interest groups, which was launched on World Osteoporosis Day, 2016.
The plan presents a joint vision to address this major health issue as a matter of urgency.
The action plan points the way to broadening the awareness of the importance of bone health, improving the bone health of the Australian population, and the outcomes for people with osteoporosis. The plan lists recommendations that focus on prevention, treatment, impact and cure and calls for a national strategy for research into curing osteoporosis.
The national alliance of interest groups include Osteoporosis Australia; the Australian and New Zealand Bone and Mineral Society; University of Sydney; Monash University; University of New South Wales, MOVE muscle, bone & joint health; and the Garvan Institute of Medical Research.
By convening experts in the field of osteoporosis, a unique opportunity to develop a National Action Plan has been developed. It highlights the need to make real change via an integrated strategy for Government interactions at a State and Federal level. Garvan believes a national strategy is the next critical step to defining what an integrated approach should look like.
In Australia it is estimated 1.2 million people are affected by osteoporosis. It is a disease that does not just affect women. Men account for up to 30% of all fractures related to osteoporosis and osteopenia, and their associated costs and the cost of fractures is the largest component cost of poor bone health in Australia, presenting a serious burden to the healthcare system.
There is limited awareness of osteoporosis within the community and amongst healthcare professionals. The majority of Australians (58%) have limited understanding of what osteoporosis is and 60% do not understand who is most at risk. Garvan sees the National Action Plan playing a critical role in educating Australians to help make a difference from a preventive and treatment perspective.
A key part will be to further develop GP engagement programs to enable them to identify patients at risk, including men, and then have them investigated and treated for osteoporosis. There is limited awareness of secondary fracture prevention programs in the hospital and primary healthcare setting. 80% of patients who suffer a fragility fracture receive no treatment to prevent further fractures. There is a general lack of awareness of osteoporosis by both the patient and the doctor, and osteoporosis is a low priority in relation to other existing illnesses, particularly in the elderly.
The Plan paves the way to establishing osteoporosis as a National Health Priority in its own right – a shared vision for all those involved.
ABOUT THE NATIONAL ACTION PLAN
The Osteoporosis National Action Plan clearly sets out three key areas for action:
- Increasing Awareness and Support
- Improving Osteoporosis Prevention and Treatment,
- Finding a Cure for Osteoporosis.
The Plan also outlines 20 recommendations to achieve these action items. The report stresses that the human and clinical burden of osteoporosis and related fractures will only get worse unless action is taken now to combat this major health issue.
NATIONAL ALLIANCE OF OSTEOPOROSIS INTEREST GROUPS INCLUDE:
- Australian and New Zealand Bone and Mineral Society
- Garvan Institute of Medical Research
- University of Melbourne
- Monash University
- MOVE, muscle, bone & joint health
- Osteoporosis Australia
- University of New South Wales
- University of Sydney.