Moving the osteoporosis advocacy agenda forward in Europe

EU Policy meeting in Brussels, Belgium
Joint meeting of the European Parliament Osteoporosis Interest Group and the EU Osteoporosis Consultation Panel showcases national-level advocacy efforts.

On 3 December  2014, Prof. John Kanis, IOF President, chaired a joint meeting of the European Parliament Osteoporosis Interest Group and the European Union Osteoporosis Consultation Panel. It was an opportunity for member countries to report back on their national-level advocacy efforts, brainstorm ideas on how to further engage their EU member of parliament (MEP) and to outline the 2015-2018 joint advocacy strategy to further raise the profile of bone, muscle and joint disorders (BMJDs) on government agendas.

The recent European elections, which saw a number of changes in MEP country representatives on the Interest Group, were identified as a real opportunity to educate and recruit new politicians to the BMJD cause -  and to make the case for why national health authorities can no longer afford to ignore the human and financial costs. MEP recruit and engagement was a key target set for the future strategy.

Members also discussed how the EU27 Report (Osteoporosis in the European Union: Medical Management, Epidemiology and Economic Burden) and SCOPE (ScoreCard for Osteoporosis in Europe) were utilized in their country to effect policy change. These key publications were launched in 2013 and together represent a powerful tool which can be used to:

  • Engage policy makers
  • Carry out a media campaign
  • Inform the health professional community

As Professor John Kanis, IOF President, highlighted “Health care is complex and every country is different but there are common problems. By working together and pooling our resources we can unite in our efforts to push for concerted action on the prevention, treatment and control of BMJDs. Speaking with one voice and delivering the same message globally is key to achieving this and tools such as EU27 Report and SCOPE help in this endeavour.”

There were many excellent examples of how the publications were leveraged on a national level including:

  • Slovenia: used EU27 report to highlight the treatment gap and successfully managed to get FRAX included within the new osteoporosis guidelines. This now means that there is complete reimbursement when decision for treatment is based on FRAX and DXA reimbursement whenever fracture risk calculated by FRAX is 10–20%.
  • Slovakia: EU27 Report was presented at the annual International Slovak and Czech Osteology Congress in September 2014. The objective was to evaluate the differences between Slovakia, Czech Republic and all other EU27 countries. The results from SCOPE were also discussed at different meetings dealing with osteoporosis, rheumatology, endocrinology and internal medicine and were used for negotiations with the Ministry of Health and Insurance Companies (payments for densitometry, payment for treatment and other health-care activities in osteology).
  • CyprusEpidemiology and Economic Burden of Osteoporosis in Cyprus to be published in the Journal of the Cyprus Medical Association.
  • Poland: Planned distribution of EU27 report and key findings (as well as Capture the Fracture material) to interested journalists and members of parliament. The aim is to organize a meeting with the Health Committee to discuss bone diseases and osteoporosis.

Another key strategic policy objective discussed at the Meeting was the implementation of fracture liaison services (FLS) to promote secondary fracture prevention. Judy Stenmark, CEO, IOF, stated, “Secondary fracture prevention is the single most important thing that can be done to directly improve patient care and reduce spiralling costs. FLS models are the single most effective and cost-saving way to prevent secondary fractures.” She went on to discuss the significant achievements and future objectives of IOF’s Capture the Fracture® initiative. In addition to the publication of important best practice documentation and implementation tool kits, Capture the Fracture has succeeded in drawing increased international attention to FLS worldwide. A total of 114 FLS will be recognized on the Capture the Fracture ‘Map of Best Practice’ by the end of 2014.

The meeting concluded with the panel agreeing that given the wealth of information and resources available, the 2015-2018 strategy should focus efforts with clear tangible goals. Where it was accepted that Advocacy is not always easy to measure there are some metrics that can be agreed to ensure that the bone, muscle and joint community within the EU speaks with a single voice. The new strategy will be presented in early 2015.     

Panel members’ who discussed country-level strategies and gave an update on their meetings with the Health Ministries of their countries included: Dusa Hlade Zore, Slovenian Osteoporosis Patient Society; Helena Salminen, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden; Gabriele Suppan, Action for Healthy Bones & Gerold Holzer, Austrian Menopause Society, Austria; and Tomaz Kocjan, Slovenian Bone Society.