Osteoporosis and the global competition for health care resources

L. Joseph Melton, Olof Johnell, Edith Lau, Carlos A. Mautalen, Ego Seeman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Global aging superimposed on existing infectious diseases and trauma will aggravate competition for health care resources to diagnose and treat osteoporosis. Efforts to implement public health measures are needed, but the targeted approach to assessment and treatment of high-risk individuals must also be refined. Increases in the elderly population worldwide will cause a dramatic rise in osteoporotic fractures, but other age-related diseases will increase as well. Changes will be superimposed on existing public health problems (e.g., malaria, alcoholism), and these acute health care needs will take priority in some areas. Societies in most parts of the world may have to limit osteoporosis control to broad public health measures, and such efforts (e.g., calcium and vitamin D supplementation) should be supported. In these regions, clinical decision-making will generally be limited to treating patients with fractures (who presumably have already failed any public health measures in place), or in a few wealthy countries, to patients with low bone density identified by case-finding. Case-finding approaches will vary with the resources available, although unselective (mass) screening by bone densitometry is largely ineffective and unaffordable anywhere. The key to clinical decision-making on behalf of individuals will be an assessment of absolute fracture risk, and the tools needed to predict the risk of an osteoporotic fracture over the next 10 years are now being developed. These include bone density measures, but also incorporate other risk factors (e.g., fracture history, corticosteroid use), which may allow extension of fracture risk prediction to nonwhite populations and to men. Even with a universal risk prediction tool, cost-effective treatment thresholds will vary by country based on the level of fracture risk in the region and on the resources available for health care. To better compete for these resources, efforts should be made to lower the cost of osteoporosis interventions. Additionally, evidence is needed that these interventions are really effective in reducing fractures in the community.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1055-1058
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Bone and Mineral Research
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2004


  • Aging
  • Epidemiology
  • Fractures
  • Osteoporosis
  • Screening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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