May 5 2005
A panel of medical experts, Congresswoman Shelley Berkley (D-NV) and Congresswoman Sue Myrick (R-NC) gathered today on Capitol Hill to examine the barriers that currently exist to proper prevention and treatment of osteoporosis, a disease that affects up to 44 million Americans.
The event, "Breaking the Barriers to Better Health: Physician and Patient Communication about Osteoporosis," revealed that patients are not learning about prevention, are not being adequately diagnosed and, if diagnosed, are not staying with their treatment.
"Care for osteoporosis is sub-optimal," stated Dr. Daniel Solomon of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School. "In general, the disease is poorly recognized, under treated and there is extremely low compliance."
Osteoporosis is a disease that causes bone to become thin, weak and brittle. Unlike many diseases and chronic conditions, we have the advantage of knowing how to prevent and treat osteoporosis.
"Thanks to years of dedicated medical research, we know a great deal more about osteoporosis than we used to," stated Congressman Sue Myrick (R-NC). "We've learned that lifestyle choices can successfully prevent the disease, and treatments are available. Millions of Americans - like me - are benefiting from these advances."
Unfortunately, osteoporosis and low bone mass (osteopenia) still pose a major public health threat. An estimated 52 million women and men age fifty plus are expected to be affected by these conditions by 2010 and 61 million are expected to be affected by 2020.
"People of all ages need to be informed that diet and exercise play a role in osteoporosis prevention and that lifestyle changes can decrease the risk of developing the disease later in life. Seniors and women are more vulnerable to developing brittle bones and its important to target prevention and education efforts at both of these groups," said Congresswoman Shelly Berkley (D-NV), who was diagnosed with osteoporosis in 1998. "That is why it is critical that information on osteoporosis is readily available and that we find more ways to spread the word."
However, speakers today called the asymptomatic condition a "silent disease" and identified poor communication between physicians and patients as one of the key barriers to prevention and treatment.
"Patients and doctors have to learn to speak the same language," said Dr. Susan Blalock of the University of North Carolina School of Pharmacy. "A doctor defines issues in objective terms while patients define issues in terms of personal relevance. Physicians talk about broken bones, but women are worried about loss of independence as a result of a broken bone. That's very different."
The event was hosted by the Alliance for Aging Research, a not-for-profit independent organization dedicated to supporting and accelerating the pace of medical discoveries to vastly improve the universal human experience of aging.