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Southampton contributes to new World Health Organization collaboration

Southampton researchers are part of a new, global collaboration for better bone health and ageing.

The agreement is led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Society for Clinical and Economic Aspects of Osteoporosis, Osteoarthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases (ESCEO).

Osteoporosis weakens bones, making them fragile and more likely to break. It affects more than three million people in the UK.

The five-year agreement was signed at the WHO Headquarters in Geneva last month. Professors Cyrus Cooper and Nicholas Harvey from the University of Southampton and NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre attended the ceremony.

Improving bone health

The new agreement aims to prevent fragility fractures among older people.

A fragility fracture is a broken bone caused by a fall from a standing height or less. They often affect the bones of the back, hip or wrist.

The agreement includes the development of a public health strategy. It also sets out plans to improve the coverage of health services for fractures.

The collaboration will:

  • develop global estimates on fracture and osteoporosis;

  • review evidence-based interventions to prevent fractures;

  • create an economic model for an investment case in fracture prevention and care;

  • provide guidance to countries on strengthening national health information systems by integrating osteoporosis and fractures in routine data monitoring; and

  • provide guidance to countries on using data to design evidence-informed policies and programmes to reduce the risk of fractures in older people.

Working together

WHO will establish a Bone Health Expert Working Group to move their plans forward. They will receive support from the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) and the WHO Collaborating Centre for Epidemiology of Musculoskeletal Health and Ageing at the University of Liège.

Prof Harvey is the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Centre (LEC) Director Designate, IOF Committee of Scientific Advisers Chair and ESCEO Scientific Board Member. He said:

“It is an enormous privilege to contribute to this international collaboration. It could help close the massive treatment gap in the prevention of osteoporotic fractures.”

Prof Cooper, MRC LEC Director, IOF President and ESCEO Vice-President, said:

“There is huge value in this international collaboration between disease focused societies and the WHO.

“It represents an unprecedented opportunity to tackle the health burden secondary to osteoporosis. This is a leading cause of ill health, and indeed mortality, in older age.”

Image: Professors Cyrus Cooper and Nicholas Harvey, and Dr Nicholas Fuggle with Dr Philippe Halbout, IOF Chief Executive Officer, at WHO Headquarters.