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Statement by EU Commissioner
David Byrne at

"Osteoporosis : A photographic vision" by Oliviero Toscani, European Parliament, Brussels, November 12, 2003

Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne on osteoporosis:

"Osteoporosis is a silent epidemic. It affects millions of Europeans. Regretably, public debate is all too silent on this largely preventable condition. Today's exhibition speaks more loudly than any words on the need for action. These individual stories of people who live with this disease, illustrate graphically the need for action.

The Commission is very much aware of the need for action on osteoporosis. We have financed a number of osteoporosis-related activities under the former Health Promotion, Health Monitoring and Injuries Prevention programmes.

In the European Commission's report on osteoporosis in 1998, a list of recommendations for the prevention of osteoporosis and associated fractures in Europe was published.

Based on this, in 2002 the Community began to fund a major project carried out by the International Osteoporosis Foundation. This project, led by the European Union Osteoporosis Consultation Panel, will analyze how the recommendations established by the Commission have been acted on by the Member States.

It will also provide a practical and cost effective plan outlining the next policy steps in this area. I am looking forward to seeing the final fruits of this cooperation in 2004.

In meeting today to draw attention to this silent epidemic, we need to begin to set out the key next steps towards a Europe free from fragility fractures. We need to change the context by reinforcing prevention and promotion from childhood, through improved diet and regular physical activity. And we need to make the case for the benefits of screening before the first fracture. We must exploit the data gathered by the projects financed in the past. And we will continue to collect and analyse data on this disease in order to follow the spread of the disease within the new Public Health Programme.

However, Community action alone will not be sufficient to tackle osteoporosis, even more so as the Treaty only gives us a limited competence in Public Health.

The organisation and delivery of health services and medical care – including appropriate diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis – is the responsibility of Member States. It is therefore important that we work together at all levels to ensure that those most at risk are identified and advised before the first fracture occurs, and that known ways of reducing the risk for this disease are widely promoted.

Let me finish by saying that I very strongly acknowledge the firm commitment of the Osteoporosis Interest Group of the European Parliament and of the International Osteoporosis Foundation. I wish you continued success in your efforts to prevent the suffering which osteoporosis causes.

This has been a silent epidemic. But it is time to end the suffering in silence. Time to offer a decent future to those in need.

Our health is our wealth. This means it is also time to invest in a healthy, mobile, productive ageing population. Time to work together, to build a healthy future for our citizens in this new Europe. A Europe of health."

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