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A Geelong-based researcher has found that, while there have been significant advances in the treatment and prevention of fractures from osteoporosis in Australian women, the same is not true of men.
“Our findings using the Geelong Osteoporosis Study data reveal that only one quarter of men who are eligible for osteoporosis treatment after a bone fracture actually commence treatment,” said PhD candidate Renée Otmar, who is working in the Epidemiology and Biostatistics Unit at Geelong Hospital, a partnership between Barwon Health and Deakin University’s School of Medicine.
“Essentially osteoporosis continues to be under-diagnosed and under-treated, particularly in men.
“A total of 109 men who had sustained a bone fracture between July 2006 and December 2007 were identified from hospital X-Ray reports.
“The men themselves were not aware they had osteoporosis, even if they had visited their GP recently.
“As part of our survey, we sent a questionnaire to the eligible participants approximately 12 months after the discovery of their fracture asking about medications prescribed for 'osteoporosis/fracture/low bone mass' before and after their fracture.”
Among men aged 50 years and older who had sustained a fracture, 76% remained untreated.
“What this is really telling us is that we still need more research into osteoporosis, but particularly in men,” Ms Otmar said.
“We also need to encourage GPs to think about osteoporosis when patients come to them with fragility fractures.
“The more awareness there is about osteoporosis the better and, of course, the greater opportunities for prevention,” she said
“People need to have a healthy and active lifestyle to reduce the potential for osteoporosis.
“They need adequate calcium in their diet and Vitamin D, mainly from the sun.
“Exercise, particularly weight-bearing exercise, is also recommended.
Ms Otmar is a Melbourne University PhD candidate who is completing her research under the supervision of Deakin University’s Associate Professor Julie Pasco at Barwon Health.
Her research has won international recognition and was published in Osteoporosis International in March 2011.
The Epidemiology and Biostatistics Unit (EBU) in Kitchener House in Geelong conducts population-based health studies.
At the heart of the unit lies the Geelong Osteoporosis Study (GOS), an umbrella term for a program of research involving large case-control and prospective population-based studies in both men and women.
The primary focus of the GOS is to describe the burden of osteoporosis in the general population and to identify risk factors for fracture.
The study was initiated in 1993; since then 1700 women and 1500 men, randomly-selected from the electoral rolls, return to the study centre at Barwon Health every few years to have their health monitored.
The scope of the study has expanded over time to study the causes of other disorders including obesity, osteoarthritis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, coeliac disease, wheat atopy and psychiatric illness.
The unit also conducts complementary studies designed to identify social determinants of disease, investigate antenatal maternal vitamin D status and off-spring health, and describe the epidemiology of communicable diseases including Mycobacterium ulcerans and H1N1 infections.
Exploring people’s experiences in relation to osteoporosis and fracture is a more recent development.
The unit is supported by both Barwon Health and the School of Medicine at Deakin University.