Updated report reveals under-investigation and under-treatment of osteoporosis

Latest News

An updated report from Healthy Bones Australia has found that only one-in-two adults who have broken a bone reported having a bone mineral density test (BMD).

The organisation released the second edition of its ‘Know Your Bones Community Risk Report' to coincide with World Osteoporosis Day (20 October). It also found that of those who have fractured a bone, the vast majority (86 per cent) are not taking preventative medication.

It has called for earlier investigation and treatment to capture all adults with risk factors for poor bone health, as well as adults post-fracture.

The updated report summarises data from more than 88,000 Australians who have completed 'Know Your Bones'. It is an online self-assessment tool developed by Healthy Bones Australia in partnership with the Garvan Institute of Medical Research. The test provides the respondent with personalised recommendations about their bone health that 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, specific factors increase a person’s risk for developing osteoporosis, including prior fracture, family history, certain medical conditions or medications, early menopause or low testosterone, lack of calcium or vitamin D, smoking, and high alcohol intake.

“Of the more than 88,000 Australians who have completed the Know Your Bones online self-assessment to date, nearly 40 per cent reported having a clinical risk factor for osteoporosis, while the vast majority (99 per cent) reported having at least one lifestyle risk factor.

“Given more than six million Australians over 50 years of age are living with poor bone health,4 we are encouraging adults to ‘Know Your Bones’, by completing our online self-assessment, to help curb the more than 183,000 fractures anticipated by 2022,” said Associate Professor Wong.

Healthy Bones Australia chair, endocrinologist, and head of the Department of Medicine, School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Health, Professor Peter Ebeling AO, said the routine investigation of adults with risk factors for poor bone health is essential to secure an early osteoporosis diagnosis, protecting bone health, and preventing unnecessary fractures.

“Breaking any bone due to poor bone health is a serious medical event. People who fracture from poor bone health have a two-to-four-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.

“Concerningly, our new report reveals one in three 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,” said Professor Ebeling.

“Investigation rates of those with risk factors for poor bone health, or patients who have already broken a bone should be much higher, given this test is widely available and reimbursed.

“Early diagnosis of osteoporosis allows us to prevent unwanted fractures,” added Professor Ebeling.

“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,” said CEO of Healthy Bones Australia, Greg Lyubomirsky.

“Fractures place a huge burden on the cost of the healthcare system and account for the majority (69 per cent) 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 Healthy 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,” added Mr Lyubomirsky.