‘Know Your Bones’ this World Osteoporosis Day

Coinciding with World Osteoporosis Day (20 October 2021), Healthy Bones Australia has released a new report called, ‘Know Your Bones Community Risk Report, Second Edition’, which calls for earlier investigation and treatment to capture all adults with risk factors for poor bone health, and adults post fracture.

The new report summarises data from more than 88,000 Australians who have completed the online self-assessment tool, ‘Know Your Bones’, developed by Healthy Bones Australia in partnership with the Garvan Institute of Medical Research.

The key findings from the report reportedly include:

  • 52% of respondents who reported a fracture were aged 50-60 years;
  • Only half of those who reported a fracture had a Bone Mineral Density (BMD) test;
  • 86% of respondents who reported sustaining a fracture said they were not taking preventative osteoporosis medication;
  • Nearly 40% of those who completed the ‘Know Your Bones’ online self-assessment had a clinical risk factor for osteoporosis, while the vast majority of respondents (99%) reported having a lifestyle risk factor for the disease;
  • Despite BMD testing remaining available, and reimbursed through Medicare for anyone over 70 years of age, nearly 30% of respondents said they had not undergone the test.

Given the findings the report is calling for earlier medical intervention to capture adults following a fracture that is due to poor bone health, and routine clinical investigation of adults with risk factors for poor bone health to ensure an early diagnosis of osteoporosis, to protect bone health, and prevent unnecessary future fractures.

‘Know Your Bones’ self-assessment tool

The self-assessment tool was developed to help Australians understand their potential risk for developing osteoporosis, and bone breaks.

It reportedly provides the respondent with personalised recommendations about their bone health, which they can share with their GP for further discussion.

According to Healthy Bones Australia Medical Director and Senior Staff Specialist Rheumatologist at Westmead Hospital, Associate Professor Peter Wong, the risk factors that increase a person’s risk for developing osteoporosis include:

  • Prior fracture;
  • Family history;
  • Certain medical conditions or medications;
  • Early menopause;
  • Low testosterone;
  • Lack of calcium;
  • Lack of vitamin D;
  • Smoking;
  • High alcohol intake.

Associate Professor Wong says that because “more than 6 million people Australians over the age of 50 are living with poor bone health”, health professionals are “encouraging adults to ‘Know Your Bones’, by completing the online self-assessment”.

“Breaking any bone due to poor bone health is a serious medical event,” says Healthy Bones Australia Chair, Endocrinologist and Head of the Department of Medicine, School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Health, Professor Peter Ebeling AO.

“People who fracture from poor bone health have a 2-4-fold increased risk of breaking another bone.

“Fractures from poor bone health cause pain and disability, with patients commonly unable to work, drive or complete everyday household tasks,” he says.

‘Calls for early diagnosis and intervention’

“Concerningly, our new report reveals 1-in-3 ‘Know Your Bones’ respondents aged over 70 years have not had a BMD test, which is reimbursed by Medicare in this age group. This simple test measures bone density at the hip and spine to identify poor bone health,” says Professor Ebeling.

Professor Ebeling calls for increased bone health investigation rates among those with risk factors for poor bone health or among those who have had a prior bone break as “early diagnosis of osteoporosis allows us to prevent unwanted fractures”.

“‘Know Your Bones’ represents a simple first step for Australians to consider their bone health and can be performed in the comfort of their own homes,” adds Greg Lyubomirsky, CEO of Healthy Bones Australia.

“Fractures place a huge burden on the cost of the healthcare system and account for the majority (69%) of the expected AUD 3.85 billion in 2022, including emergency costs, hospital stays, rehabilitation and community services.

“We need to educate the community about the risk factors for poor bone health and ensure adults with risk factors are investigated as part of a routine medical check-up.

“At Health Bones Australia, we are committed to improving Australians’ bone health. The data contained in the second edition of the ‘Know Your Bones Community Risk Report’ provides timely and valuable insights on osteoporosis for health professionals, policy makers and the community at large,” says Mr Lyubomirsky.

To learn more about the ‘Know Your Bones’ online self-assessment, visit: knowyourbones.org.au/

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