Women’s Health Strategy needs to go big on osteoporosis emergency affecting one in two women over 50

Media releases

20 Jul 2022

Women’s Health Strategy needs to go big on osteoporosis emergency affecting one in two women over 50

Today (20 July 2022) the Department for Health and Social Care will publish the first-ever government-led Women’s Health Strategy for England.

The 10-year strategy sets to tackle the gender health gap, prioritising care on the basis of clinical need and not gender, improving the health and wellbeing of women, and resetting how the health and care system listens to women.

The Royal Osteoporosis Society (ROS) has been influencing Ministers and officials to include a strong focus on osteoporosis in the strategy.

Craig Jones, Chief Executive of the Royal Osteoporosis Society said:

“A credible Women’s Health Strategy needs to include a serious plan for tackling the public health crisis of osteoporosis, which sits near the top of the list of life-limiting conditions which disproportionately affect women. A full half of women over 50 will suffer osteoporosis, with as many people dying from fracture-related causes as from lung cancer and diabetes. 

“Despite this, the UK has fallen way behind, with widespread injustice caused by under-diagnosis and under-treatment in the NHS. If government puts a tiny fraction of its £2bn spend on hip fractures every year into early intervention, we can transform the quality of later life for women in this country.

“We hope the Women’s Health Strategy will show it is serious about tackling the culture of passivity and defeatism that has characterised the fight against osteoporosis for far too long.”

Why osteoporosis matters within women’s health:

  • Osteoporosis affects women much more than men: 3.5 million people in the UK are living with the condition and one in two women over 50 will break a bone because of it.
  • Pre-existing inequalities in osteoporosis care: There is already a postcode lottery for Fracture Liaison Services (FLS) in England and Wales impacting women’s health outcomes, with only half (51%) of NHS Trusts providing the treatment and care needed. Addressing this postcode lottery would lead to improved diagnosis rates in line with the NHS Long Term Plan.
  • Menopause is a key time for bone health: women’s bone health is crucial at the time of menopause because oestrogen levels (the female sex hormone that helps keep bones strong) decrease. Placing osteoporosis at the forefront of menopause care is paramount to ensure women maintain good bone health throughout the menopause and beyond. With our ageing population, osteoporosis will put an increasing burden on the NHS – currently £4.5bn a year and projected to rise steeply.
  • Impact on the economy: Acknowledging osteoporosis as a significant part of women’s health and tackling inequalities in access to timely treatment and care, will improve their ability to contribute to the labour market – a quarter of working age people with osteoporosis have to give up work, change their job or reduce their hours.
  • Awareness and information: Osteoporosis and fractures are preventable, yet there’s an ill-informed perception that osteoporosis is an unavoidable consequence of women getting older, significantly contributing to the gender health gap. If all women had access to high-quality information and education on bone health, they would feel empowered to advocate for their own health, reducing disparities in outcomes.

Read the Vision for the Women’s Health Strategy for England and consultation response, published last December.