Armenia hosts successful 3rd International Osteoporosis Summit

Pre-summit meeting with Dr Armen Sarkissian, President of Armenia
Once again, the Armenian Osteoporosis Society and Dr John Bilezikian hosted a successful International Summit and Symposium in Yerevan with IOF participation. The events brought together more than 60 experts from 25 countries.

The 3rd International Osteoporosis Summit was held on October 8 at the Marriott Hotel in Yerevan, bringing together more than 60 healthcare specialists and IOF member society representatives from 25 countries. This is the third such international summit, hosted by the Armenian Osteoporosis Association and Dr John P. Bilezikian, Professor of Medicine of Columbia University, together with the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF). As with past Summits, previously held in 2016 and 2018, it was the occasion for engaging discussion and fruitful exchange among dedicated experts and advocates in the bone field.

Dr Varta Babalyan, President of the Armenian Osteoporosis Association, said:

Since 2016, Armenia has become a centre of international dialogue about osteoporosis where leading health care professionals from around the world gather to discuss major issues in the field of osteoporosis and share their views and experiences. At today’s meeting, we will focus on vitamin D deficiency worldwide, and particularly in Armenia.”

The expert speakers discussed the causes of osteoporosis, its prevention and management, as well as new clinical advances. This year, the importance of vitamin D and the possible consequences of deficiency was the key topic on the agenda. In many countries, data is lacking, including in Armenia. However, Dr Babalyan announced that by the end of 2019, the results of a survey conducted among 1350 women will shed light on the situation in Armenia. 

Dr John P. Bilezikian, Founding President of the Osteoporosis Center, Professor of Medicine of Columbia University, talked about the importance and the role of the media for information exchange in the field of osteoporosis. He stated that a decade ago it became clear that the population of the USA was not getting enough vitamin D and did not receive the required amount of vitamin D. Yet currently, approximately 65% of the population is getting the necessary amount of vitamin D. This shows that communication on television, radio and online media has succeeded in raising public awareness about the risks of vitamin D deficiency, and highlighting that it may have a negative impact on bone health and raise the risk of osteoporosis.

The Osteoporosis Center in Armenia, led by Dr Varta Babalyan, conducts awareness trainings for local professionals, particularly for regional doctors, on healthy lifestyle and how to teach patients to take care of their own bone health. Dr Babalyan noted that mass media can play an essential role in widely disseminating relevant information and raising public awareness, to help the population understand and take concrete measures to improve and protect bone health.

On behalf of IOF, this year's summit was hosted by Dr Philippe Halbout, IOF Chief Executive Officer, and Prof. Rene Rizzoli, Executive Board representative and Treasurer of the IOF. 

Prior to the start of the Summit, Dr Halbout and Prof. Rizzoli were greatly honoured to join Dr Bilizikian, Dr Olga Lesnyak (Russian Association of Osteoporosis), and Dr Babalyan in a private visit with the President of Armenia, Dr Armen Sarkissian. Organized by Dr Bilezikian, the meeting was an very special opportunity to discuss osteoporosis and its prevention at the highest levels.

13th Annual Osteoporosis Symposium

Following the Summit, on October 9th, the 13th Annual Osteoporosis Symposium took place. Lectures were delivered by renowned specialists from USA, Russia, Brazil, Lebanon, India and Armenia.

IOF’s activities and plans for World Osteoporosis Day 2019 were discussed by IOF CEO Dr Halbout, while Dr Babalyan discussed the work of the Armenian Osteoporosis Association. Key note lectures were given by Dr Michael Lewiecki, Dr Olga Lesnyak, Prof. Rene Rizzoli, Prof Ghada El Hajj Fuleihan, and Dr Ambrish Mithal.The special symposium on Vitamin D, led by Dr. Bilezikian was followed by lectures by speakers Dr Mariam Manoukian, Dr Lena Aghajanova, Dr Carolina Moreira, and Dr Kim Hekimian.

Among the speakers who discussed vitamin D, Dr Ghada El Hajj Fuleihan, Professor of Endocrinology from Lebanon, noted that there are high levels of vitamin D deficiency in Lebanon, despite the fact that Beirut has 300 sunny days per year. As a result of her team's research, it has been determined that the problem was mainly found in children, women after giving birth, and the elderly. She noted that among the key reasons for the high levels of vitamin D deficiency is that children mostly play indoors, the population drinks little milk, and clothing always cover the whole body, preventing the skin from producing vitamin D from sunlight. The impact of awareness campaigns has been positive. She added:

People have started to treat vitamin D deficiency through supplements or proper nutrition. Today, about 50% of the population has vitamin D deficiency, whereas in the past the percentage was much higher.”

The successful symposium wrapped up with a Roundtable discussion and a final summary by host Dr. Bilezikian.