3rd IOF Women Leaders Roundtable calls on European citizens to stand tall for bone health

3rd Women Leaders Roundtable on October 14, 2008 in Brussels as part of the IOF European launch of World Osteoporosis Day.
Speakers and moderator of the 3rd IOF Women Leaders Roundtable held in Brussels on October 14, 2008 Journalists and EU Osteoporosis Consultation Panel members were among the numerous participants European Union Commissioner for Health Androulla Vassiliou Mrs. Barbara Miklič Türk, First Lady of the Republic of Slovenia signing the 'Call to Action' document Susan Hampshire, U.K. actress and patron of the National Osteoporosis Society (NOS) Maggie Philbin, renowned U.K. journalist Professor Cyrus Cooper, Chair of IOF's Committee of Scientific Advisors and moderator of the event

Previous IOF Womens Leaders Roundtables were set in Lisbon in 2002 and Toronto in 2006.

This year’s theme of Stand Tall, Speak Out For Your Bones is a global call to take charge and improve osteoporosis healthcare policies around the world.

The Roundtable event was moderated with style and humour by Prof Cyrus Cooper, IOF Board Member and Chair of the Committee of Scientific Advisors. Prof Cooper gave a brief historical review of the Women Leaders Roundtable, pointing out that by sharing their stories, these women of prominence can encourage citizens of all ages to take control of their life by making healthy lifestyle decisions now that will pay huge dividends down the road.

Speakers were asked to share their personal and professional insights into our theme of standing tall and speaking out for their bones. Each reflected on their early understanding of osteoporosis as children and younger women, agreeing that there was insufficient information about the importance of diet and exercise in their youth. Only as adults did they learn about the importance of bone healthy lifestyles, including bone mineral density testing and the risk factors for fracture.

European Union Commissioner for Health, Androulla Vassiliou, stated that “healthcare in the EU is complex and challenging. Among the Commission’s key priorities in improving healthcare are to foster good health in an ageing Europe; to reduce health inequalities inside the Union; and to support dynamic health systems by encouraging cross-border cooperation and the creation of centres of excellence. Today’s meeting is a very positive step in identifying how we achieve these goals”. She went on to emphasize the importance of additional research about bone health in general and osteoporosis in particular.

Mrs Barbara Miklič Tϋrk, First Lady of the Republic of Slovenia, acknowledged that as the wife of the President of Slovenia she was in a position to help increase the visibility of osteoporosis and the Slovenia Osteoporosis Patient Society. While learning early in her life from her physician mother that taking care of her health was important, she also knew that this attitude was not universal, so now works very hard as the society patron to “raise widespread awareness about the importance of preventing osteoporosis……as well as preventing its most serious consequence, bone fractures”. She especially targets her message to the young and middle aged since “health is one of our most important values”. With the Slovenian population “ageing more quickly than the European average, with more than 15% of people above 65 years of age” she recognized the importance of keeping this population healthy.

“As we all know, the health of a family very much depends on the literacy, education and general knowledge of women, and how well informed they are. I am pleased that the International Osteoporosis Foundation strives to increase the awareness of as many people as possible”.

Many in the audience were familiar with Susan Hampshire’s roles as an actress in television, film and theatre in the UK. She took on a different role in 2002 as a patron for the National Osteoporosis Society (NOS), only then discovering that she herself had osteoporosis. “As the world’s population lives longer, one of the great aims is for us all to retain our quality of life. We all want to be independent, to stay mobile, and to be able to look after ourselves and the people we love”.

She praised the NOS for its dedication to improving the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis, especially its far-reaching Helpline Service, comprised of a trained team of nurses available to healthcare providers, patients and their families. This is why she has chosen to volunteer her time raising awareness through newspaper articles, media and photo calls, and fund raising events. Her message is strong, clear and simple. “Your bones are for life. Look after them and they will carry you far”.

Maggie Philbin, a renowned journalist in the United Kingdom, admitted that while a student at university she dieted continuously to the point of looking “like a walking coathanger”. She was never made aware of the damage she was doing to her bones by denying them proper nutrition.

Only when she began working on a television program about health did she learn about osteoporosis and realize her bones may be at risk of fracturing, a fact that was later proven with a test that showed she had poor bone density. Exercise programs and improved diet have replaced her old habits. Not only is she healthier, but she has passed on these good habits to her daughter, Rose, who at age 20 understands what it takes to have a healthy life without fractures. Maggie has also volunteered as a patron for the National Osteoporosis Society in the UK ever since, spreading the word, and says “I may have been a technology reporter, but, in this case, having the very best technology isn’t enough – we have to change attitudes, knowledge and preconceptions”.

It was with regret that Anna Molinari, international fashion designer from Italy, was not able to attend due to illness. Ms Molinari participated in the 2002 Roundtable event in Lisbon.

Concluding the Roundtable, all speakers signed a Call to Action  urging European citizens of all ages to stand tall and speak out for their bones. READ MORE