1. Please give a summary of your research.
Osteoporosis, often considered a geriatric disease, is actually a pediatric disease that manifests later in life. In Australia, 1.2 million adults aged 50yrs and older are affected by osteoporosis, yet prevention of this disease during childhood is not well understood. While the medical community recognises the impact of osteoporosis in adulthood, many clinicians remain unaware that osteoporosis begins in childhood. Whilst working in hospital and research settings, I have personally witnessed the negative impact osteoporosis has on the lives of older adults. Through the clinical randomised controlled trials (RCT) that I have conducted, my work has demonstrated that changing lifestyle factors in older age only results in small gains (~3%) in bone mass and strength. This clearly highlights the need for osteoporosis prevention to occur at a much earlier age. Lifestyle factors such as regular weight-bearing exercise, and adequate dietary protein and calcium, and vitamin D, can positively influence peak bone accrual. In particular, my research suggests that higher levels of weight-bearing physical activity results in 6-8% greater cortical bone mass and area in active children compared to their sedentary peers. Furthermore, physical activity during childhood is associated with greater bone mass and strength into adulthood. However, research has shown the secular decline in diet quality and physical activity (78% of 9-11yr old children do not meet guidelines) in children potentially increases osteoporosis risk in the future. Researchers can achieve much by working with healthcare providers to increase recognition of precursors of osteoporosis risk. Consequently, my research aspiration is committed to achieving international recognition of osteoporosis risk during childhood, particularly translating evidence-based research into clinical practice and providing optimal strategies to enhance osteoporosis risk identification in children. The proposed education program will be novel, and will subsequently be embedded into the clinical community having a real-world impact on osteoporosis prevention.
2. Please include any additional details you would like to share
The Global Burden of Disease report in 2010 reported that ~1.7 billion people worldwide were affected by musculoskeletal disorders: an increase of 45% from 1990 to 2010, compared to a 33% average across all other disease groups. Over the past decade, the World Health Organization and the Australian Osteoporosis National Action Plan 2016 have recommended greater support for comprehensive education of healthcare professionals in osteoporosis management. However, research has shown that there are substantial gaps in osteoporosis knowledge among healthcare providers, particularly in areas of prevention and management of the disease through modification of lifestyle factors involving exercise and nutrition from early life. This is in spite of published recommendations and guidelines to build healthy bones throughout life, developed following the Osteoporosis Australia Summit in 2011. In Australia, 66% of healthcare providers (general practitioners [GPs] and nurses) acknowledged that they did not obtain education regarding osteoporosis and its management during or after graduation. Strategies to maintain skeletal health and prevent osteoporosis should be incorporated into all levels of education for healthcare professionals including medical, nursing and allied health professions.