Putting osteoporosis prevention and treatment on Iran’s healthcare agenda

lab workers at EMRI
Researchers in laboratory at EMRI
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With its extensive outreach and national research since 2002, EMRI has increased public and health professional knowledge of osteoporosis throughout the country and taken important steps forward in quantifying the burden of the disease in Iran.

Osteoporosis is a significant health problem in Iran. In this vast country of more than 77 million people, it is estimated that the prevalence of osteoporosis and osteopenia in Iranians aged 50 years and older is approximately 22.2% and 59.9% in women, and 11.0% and 50.1% in men, respectively.

Despite the prevalence of osteoporosis and fractures, there was little public and health professional awareness of the disease only 15 years ago. Much has since changed, thanks largely to the efforts of the Osteoporosis Research Center - Endocrinology and Metabolism Research Institute (EMRI), affiliated with the Tehran University of Medical Sciences.

Dr. Eghbal Taheri, IOF Regional Advisory Council member for the Middle East & Africa, and Advisor to the Director of EMRI said,

The ageing of Iran’s population means that osteoporosis and related fractures, already a major health problem, will become an even greater burden to our healthcare system and to our society in the future. EMRI has therefore been highly committed to tackling the problem on various fronts. We have focused on several key priority areas including: increasing awareness among the public, improving health professional knowledge, carrying out critical epidemiological research, and proposing public prevention measures to address issues such as vitamin D deficiency.”

In fact, due to the Institute’s broad scope of activities EMRI was designated to be a WHO Collaborating Center for Osteoporosis (as well as for diabetes). As a longtime member of the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF), EMRI has also been an active participant in the worldwide community of osteoporosis patient, medical and research societies.

In view of the lack of data regarding the prevalence of osteoporosis-related fractures and the burden of the disease, the Osteoporosis Research Center - EMRI has conducted numerous national projects. As well, the organization has been committed to addressing the lack of public and health professional awareness and knowledge. Activities include:

  • Celebrating ‘Osteoporosis Week’ , which begins on October 20th each year.  During this week EMRI organizes several workshops for health care providers as well as public and patients who are suffering from osteoporosis or fractures, and their families
  • Organizing campaigns for school children, talking about prevention of osteoporosis through exercise and healthy nutrition
  • Promoting food fortification and providing fortified milk with Vitamin D at schools
  • Targeted campaigns in different provinces (27 Provinces which are members of the Osteoporosis Network) organized  in the parks and public areas – for public education about risk factors such as  exercise, food and nutritional aspects of osteoporosis which can have impact on fracture risk
  • Promotion and advocacy through mass media (TV, Radio and newspapers) with EMRI experts giving interviews about the issues and burden of osteoporosis
  • Raising the importance of bone health within the health policy agenda by inviting health policy makers and officials from the Ministry of Health, Municipality, Environmental sections to events

Furthermore the organization is working actively towards:

  • Expansion of the Hip Fracture Registry and FRAX tool validation with the aim to provide enough data for a FRAX country model for Iran
  • EMRI has  already developed  national  health care networks to help improve the care of osteoporosis and fracture patients in Iran
  • Developing a regional network is  a key plan of action,  as WHO collaborating center for osteoporosis
  • Expansion of professional and graduate education and capacity-building in training health professionals
  • More research and knowledge, including on the genetic basis of bone diseases
  • Broader promotion of life style modification for osteoporosis prevention
  • Development of national guidelines for the screening, diagnosis, prevention and management of osteoporosis in Iran

IOF CEO Judy Stenmark stated,

With its increasing elderly population, Iran will face a fast growing ‘epidemic’ of osteoporotic fractures unless action is taken. That’s why EMRI’s broad range of work is critically important. We are honoured to have the society as a longstanding member of IOF and we applaud its efforts and commitment to reducing the burden of osteoporosis in the population.”

> For more information visit the EMRI website