IOF – International Osteoporosis Foundation

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World Health Organization (WHO)

Osteoporosis was formally identified as a disease by a group of WHO experts in 1994 resulting in publication of "Assessment of Fracture Risk and its Application to Screening for Postmenopausal Osteoporosis" (WHO Technical Report Series 843). EFFO (which merged with the IFSSD in 1998 to become IOF) provided technical and financial support to the study.

Since then IOF has enjoyed a long-standing working relationship with WHO on issues of importance in osteoporosis, including joint consultation on WHO technical reports (see below).

Mutual participation of the two organizations in other events has included IOF involvement in WHO's Active Ageing Initiative and WHO participation in the 5th IOF World Wide Conference of Osteoporosis Patient Societies. WHO has given some support through its involvement in major IOF events and meetings including the launch of the "Report on Osteoporosis in the European Community – Action for Prevention"

Below is a brief outline of IOF cooperation and mutual projects with the WHO:

WHO Working Group on Fracture Risk Assessment

Scientific research now supports the use of proven therapies to prevent osteoporotic fractures based on the individual's probability of fracture as opposed to their bone density score alone. This new concept is currently being validated by a WHO working group in collaboration with IOF and the (US) National Osteoporosis Foundation to ensure its accuracy and reproducibility. The goal is to develop an easy-to-use fracture risk assessment tool for family physicians to use with patients of both sexes, all ages, ethnic groups and in all countries. The results of the investigation are expected in 2006 and will be announced by IOF. A preliminary article authored by Prof. J.Kanis is available here.

IOF consultation on WHO Technical Reports

IOF’s joint consultation with the WHO and the (US) National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases has led to numerous WHO Technical Reports and has led to the creation of three WHO osteoporosis collaborating centres based in Geneva, Switzerland; Liege, Belgium and Sheffield, United Kingdom. For further information about IOF cooperation on WHO Technical reports click here.

WHO Health Academy and Osteoporosis

Currently, IOF’s scientific officers and secretariat are working with the WHO on the development of an internet-based website on osteoporosis and bone health as part of the WHO Health Academy project. The WHO Health Academy aims to make the knowledge of health specialists available to all citizens of the world through internet based technology. Three modules on osteoporosis are planned, aimed at children, women aged 45+ and men aged 50+.

WHO Global Strategy on Osteoporosis

In 1998 Dr. André Prost, then Director of WHO's Division of Non-communicable Diseases, announced that osteoporosis must be considered as a priority public health issue. In the following year IOF held an exclusive interview with Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, the director general of WHO at the time, in which she said that “recognising the global problem posed by osteoporosis, WHO sees the need for a global strategy for prevention and control of osteoporosis, focusing on three major functions: prevention, management and surveillance”.

IOF actively participated in the launch of the WHO Global Strategy on Osteoporosis in 1999, as the co-organiser of the International Press Conference held on October 11, 1999 in Lyon, France. A scientific task force, which includes IOF board members and scientific officers, published an Interim report (PDF, 60 KB) that appeared in IOF's scientific journal Osteoporosis International in October 1999, to coincide with the World Osteoporosis Day. The interim report was intended as the first step in the preparation of a master document "Practical Guide for Osteoporosis Management" for primary care physicians which would aim to improve the diagnosis and care of osteoporosis patients throughout the world, with a particular emphasis on developing countries. This report has not yet been realized.

Campaigning for a WHO resolution on osteoporosis

In May 2000 IOF campaigned for a resolution on osteoporosis to be adopted by the World Health Assembly. A resolution, which must clear many hurdles before it reaches the World Health Assembly for final adoption by all Member States, would be an important step in raising international awareness of the disease and its prevention, early detection and treatment. It would help give osteoporosis a higher status on governments' agendas worldwide and would help the disease gain importance in WHO's strategy and programs.

The procedure for a WHO resolution to be adopted is a long term challenge. The subject in question has to be discussed by the WHO Executive Board (a turn-over representation of 30 Member States elected for three years) the resolution adopted and then presented at the World Health Assembly for final adoption by all Member States. The procedure involves contacting WHO's Member States, represented by their Ministry of Health, and encouraging the member states to give individual support for a resolution. It is important to secure the support of as many Member States as possible. In 2000 IOF was successful in assuring support from major Member States, from various parts of the world. A draft resolution was considered by them and the WHO Secretariat and a request made to put osteoporosis on the agenda of an Executive Board Meeting.

Although unsuccessful so far, IOF will continue to keep in contact with the supporters of the resolution, and will lobby other Member States for their help.

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