Speech by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

Women Leaders Roundtable – Osteoporosis Australia


I would like to thank Osteoporosis Australia for inviting me to speak at today’s Women Leaders Roundtable to discuss an extremely important issue – Osteoporosis.

The Howard Government recognises that osteoporosis is a real problem particularly for women and is not one that will go away. In fact, the issue of osteoporosis will continue to increase in importance as our population ages.

We have a key role to play in encouraging all women to have a lifestyle now, which maximises our heath and wellbeing as we grow older.

In July 2002, the Australian Government recognised the burden osteoporosis places on the community by including Arthritis and Musculoskeletal conditions as a National Health Priority Area.

This meant that all Health Ministers agreed that there was a need for a national effort to improve care and health outcomes for people who are at risk or who have developed a musculoskeletal condition including osteoporosis.

This decision will give increased prominence to the prevention and treatment of these diseases.

The Australian Government has recently provided more than $14 million over four years for the Sharing Health Care initiative. This initiative will trial chronic disease self-management service delivery models for Australians with chronic and complex health concerns, including osteoporosis. There are projects underway in each State and Territory.

In addition, last year the Government provided new funding of $11.5 million over four years for the ‘Better Arthritis Care’ initiative, to improve the care of people with arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions.

To date, 27 new projects are being funded as part of the initiative, including:

Callala Tai Chi for arthritis and osteoporosis;
a system for improving vitamin D nutrition in nursing home residents;
and Bone Health for Life – an interactive website and CD ROM.
These projects have a strong emphasis on the practical management of osteoporosis and other musculoskeletal conditions, and they will assist in improving the quality of life for people with these conditions around Australia.

In 2003, the National Health and Medical Research Council provided funding of over $5 million for Osteoporosis or Falls Prevention Specific Research.

The National Falls Prevention study, notes that many older people did not see the connection between exercise, of any kind, and good balance. A fall can be the beginning of a downward health spiral with the possible result of ongoing health problems or the need to move into a nursing home.

As well as the direct physical outcomes of a fall, it can also result in a loss of confidence. Difficulties and the frustration of convalescence can also have a negative impact on an older person’s mental health after a fall.

The Australian Women’s Coalition, which is one of four Office of the Status of Women-funded national women’s secretariats, has identified osteoporosis as one of its priority areas.

OSW also funds two research fellows who are using the data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics Time Use Surveys to analyse how Australians use their time.

The research indicates older women spend less time in sporting or outdoor activities than men and that less than a third of both older women and older men undertake physical activity.

Walking is the most common exercise for older Australians, however the research also revealed older women participate in other activities for exercise such as aerobics, Tai Chi, yoga, stretching, running and swimming.

Nevertheless, while older women’s participation rates in these activities are marginally higher than men, the total hours per week is fewer.

The data may show women are not as active as men, but it is never to late to start.

The Womens Leaders Roundtable is a wonderful opportunity for women to come together to acknowledge and fight osteoporosis.

All of us can do more to reduce the likelihood of this disease

I would like to thank Osteoporosis Australia once again for this opportunity