Medibank in partnership to study the impact of exercise and support on osteoarthritis

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A partnership between Medibank and the University of Melbourne is exploring how exercise and dietary support can reduce pain and improve function for people living with hip osteoarthritis.

The Better Hip research trial is studying how an online exercise and weight loss program with support from physiotherapists and dietitians compares to having access to information and advice only.

It will follow up with participants six and 12 months after completing the program. The evaluation will focus on clinical outcomes, participant feedback and engagement. An additional evaluation will take place after 24 months, focusing on longer-term outcomes such as the rate of hip replacements.

The trial is being undertaken with Medibank customers, with just over 100 participants so far.

Medibank chief customer officer, Milosh Milisavljevic, said the impact on customers’ quality of life drives the company's interest in hip osteoarthritis.

“Around 1 in 11 adults are currently living with osteoarthritis, which can be extremely debilitating and limiting for everyday activities. With numbers set to significantly increase due to our ageing population and rising obesity rates, we are keen to support research that helps to address this,” said Mr Milisavljevic.

“An important feature of the trial is the virtual platform, which extends access to the trial to customers in regional areas.

“This means that location is not a barrier to taking part in the trial. We know it can be challenging for people to get to appointments, especially in regional and remote areas, but customers throughout the country can access Better Hip as it’s delivered completely online,” Mr Milisavljevic said.

University of Melbourne Professor Kim Bennell said that while clinical guidelines include lifestyle recommendations to manage hip osteoarthritis, their application falls short.

“Hip replacement surgery rates are expected to rise by 208% between 2013 and 2030, yet we know that up to a third of patients may not achieve clinical benefit. There’s also an over-reliance on drugs, including opioids, in the treatment of hip osteoarthritis.

“Education, exercise and weight loss are recognised as first-line treatments for osteoarthritis. Despite being shown to improve pain, function and quality of life and reduce the need for hip replacement, these treatments are underutilised. More than half of people are still not receiving appropriate care.

“We need effective and accessible programs that address gaps in treatment for people with hip osteoarthritis,” said Professor Bennell.