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Speech by Her Majesty Queen Rania Al-Abdullah

IOF Worldwide Conference of Osteoporosis Patient Societies

May 27, 2001
Naples, Italy

Distinguished Participants,
Ladies and Gentlemen...

Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan

I'm delighted to be at this important gathering bringing osteoporosis to the forefront of the international health agenda. Your presence here is a testament to the challenges that we face in fighting this disease. It also highlights the importance of building alliances to spread the word on prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.

Whenever I am briefed on the exciting work undertaken by the osteoporosis patient movement, I am impressed by your energy, creativity, and devotion. I know that many of you are trying to accomplish ambitious plans with limited funds and staff. I applaud your hard work. I assure you that you are making a difference. Your voices are being heard. Your efforts are indeed visible.

You have a large responsibility. You represent the millions of people in the world who have osteoporosis, and you will speak for many more who will develop this disease in their lifetime. You lead the movement.

We should realize that the fight against osteoporosis is a social movement, and all social movements in history were born of a crisis. They gain momentum as the crisis expands. If we consider the circumstances affecting the rise of osteoporosis, it is not difficult to see why your movement is critically important today. Like many other serious health conditions, osteoporosis is plagued by misconceptions. Many cases go undetected for years due to lack of awareness, leading to heavy costs – in both economic and social terms.

Queen Rania enters the congress venue
The Queen is applauded as she enters the congress venue.

It is here that your movement plays a pivotal role in raising awareness and building alliances across borders. Only a decade ago, osteoporosis was a virtually unknown condition among the general public. Millions of people suffered fractures as their bones degenerated with age... but it is only in the last 10 to 15 years that osteoporosis was properly diagnosed.

Today, the general public remains insufficiently informed. For one thing, osteoporosis continues to be regarded as an 'old woman's disease'. When I joined IOF two years ago, one journalist asked me if I was shifting away from my focus on youth and children's issues.

My answer then and now remains the same – there has been no shift. The truth is that osteoporosis is a silent epidemic. Its foundation is laid in the early years of childhood, but manifests itself later in life. Prevention begins early on, particularly among young girls, who face greater risk as they grow. It begins with highlighting the need to know about preserving our bones in the early years of bone formation.

In Jordan, approximately half of our population is between the ages of fifteen and thirty. We are stepping up our advocacy efforts to reach this very important group. An Osteoporosis Awareness Week will take place with the participation and support of key players like NGOs, and pharmaceutical and dairy companies.

Our national society, the Jordanian Osteoporosis Prevention Society, is also conducting a campaign to assess risk and promote early detection among women. The campaign will take them from the southern tip of the country to the northern borders.

Queen Rania attending the morning plenary sessions
Queen Rania attending the morning plenary sessions

It is becoming essential that medical treatment be supplemented with local support groups to protect the emotional well being of patients and their families. I am pleased that you will be tackling this vital issue in the "Quality of Life" session this morning.

As we can see, the toll of osteoporosis extends to both our minds and bodies.

So what can we, as a growing social movement, do to fight this disease? I believe we are already well along the road to making a difference. Your efforts in advocacy, in sharing knowledge and expertise, are going a long way to win allies for our movement.

We all realize how widespread osteoporosis is, and we are fully aware of the burden it places on society. In fact, it is precisely the human and financial toll of osteoporosis that had fueled this social movement across the globe. It has created a sense of urgency for action. As our population ages, our economies will have to foot the cost of osteoporosis, from increased absence in the workplace, to medical bills on national healthcare systems. We need to work closely with healthcare policymakers to make osteoporosis a global health priority.

What is particularly important, but not emphasized enough, is the psychological toll of osteoporosis... a toll that is not quantifiable, but is just as debilitating. When bones disintegrate, people's lives can disintegrate too. The loss of independence that comes with physical disability can create human suffering, which affects the entire family unit.

We need all the allies we can get. We need friends in government who develop healthcare policy on reimbursement. We need friends in the media who publicize the problems and solutions. We need friends in the healthcare profession to provide better care for people at risk. We need friends in the scientific community and pharmaceutical companies to spend more on research and development. And we need friends in the private sector who can provide funds that make it possible for us to do our work.

Prof. Pierre D. Delmas, Queen Rania, Linda Edwards, Daniel Navid From left to right: Prof. Pierre D. Delmas (IOF President), Queen Rania, Linda Edwards (CEO of NOS, UK), Daniel Navid (CEO of IOF)

I know you will be touching upon these topics in a very busy agenda for the next two days. There is an important synergy between building alliances and building this movement to fight osteoporosis. With more players on our team, we can win this fight.

But there is much more to be done... much more to be learned. We can-and we must- set our aims higher to address and eradicate this disease. Through your presence here today, we can draw upon the experiences and successes of national efforts in other countries.

I thank you for your continued efforts and wish you all the best in this very important endeavor. Together we can build a world of individuals with healthy bones.

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