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National action plan for osteoporosis announced

Carole David was gardening in her backyard in 2015 when she brushed off a water dragon that had jumped on her shoulder.

The motion of turning caused her significant back pain.

“I didn’t think anything of it, but it was very painful,” David said.

It set David, now 65, up for months of tests with doctors, colonoscopists and gynaecologists until one hospital doctor discovered she had multiple tiny fractures in her spine.

David said a $4 million national action plan for osteoporosis announced on Thursday would have saved her time.

The new plan will educate doctors and punters about osteoporosis, which leads to more brittle bones that have a higher risk of being broken.

“It’s so important to get the message out there,” David said.

“Because you don’t feel ill when you’ve got it, the only time you realise you’ve got something wrong is when you actually fracture or break something.”

Osteoporosis Australia’s medical director Professor Peter Ebeling said Thursday’s announcement from Health Minister Greg Hunt was a “delightful surprise”.

Ebeling said their first priority was increasing community awareness, with programs to educate school kids on the importance of bone health.

He said risk factors include previous broken bones, a family history of osteoporosis, low calcium in one’s diet or a lack of Vitamin D.

Ebeling said cancer treatment drugs and steroids to treat arthritis could also lead to the condition.

“I see a lot of young people with osteoporosis,” Ebeling said.

Osteoporosis Australia estimated the cost of the disease to hit over $2.1 billion, with 70 per cent of that related to the costs of treating factors.

Ebeling said more than 80 per cent of people with osteoporosis who present to medicos with broken bones weren’t investigated for symptoms of the disease.

He said it was an “easy test” with Australians receiving a free one on their 70th birthday.

Ebeling said it was more commonly seen in women than men.

David said even now she still has to tell doctors about her condition.

Just recently a simple fall shattered her sternum, with a doctor telling her, “Now dear, I don’t believe you could do this much damage with this sort of accident”.

“First of all, don’t call me dear,” David said before telling the doctor about her condition.

“It’s the plan about education, it’s about getting people to understand how serious it is,” she said.

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