Healthcare symposium aims to make osteoporosis a public health priority  

By Press office

QMU will hold a symposium on osteoporosis to raise awareness of the condition amongst healthcare professionals and the public.  

The event, which will be held on World Osteoporosis Day on 20th October 2023, will be led by QMU’s specialist researchers and healthcare professionals who have spent years researching and raising awareness of the condition as part of their work with the University’s Lydia Plus Osteoporosis Project. With leading healthcare professionals from across the UK contributing to the event, the symposium not only aims to focus on bone health and prevention of falls, it will call for osteoporosis to be viewed as a public health priority.  

Osteoporosis is a common bone disease that weakens bones, making them fragile and more likely to break. It develops slowly over several years and is often only diagnosed when a fall or sudden impact causes a bone to break (fracture). It affects over 3 million people in the UK (including 250,000 in Scotland) and accounts for around 527,000 fractures per year in the UK.  

The most common injuries in people with osteoporosis are a broken wrist, hip or spinal bones (vertebrae). However, breaks can also happen in other bones, such as in the arm or pelvis. Sometimes a cough or sneeze can cause a broken rib or the partial collapse of one of the bones of the spine. Although a broken bone is often the first sign of osteoporosis, some older people develop the characteristic stooped (bent forward) posture. It happens when the bones in the spine have broken, making it difficult to support the weight of the body. 

Osteoporosis rates increase with age and in the context of a rapidly ageing population in the UK and elsewhere, the overall numbers will continue to rise. Indeed, medical specialists refer to an impending ‘osteoporosis epidemic’ as around 50% of people aged 75 years and over have osteoporosis. Globally osteoporosis is a public health issue which increases the risk of hip fracture and poor health outcomes for those living with the condition. Although it is commonly viewed as a disease mainly affecting postmenopausal females, with 1 in 3 women over the age of 50 years living with the condition, it can affect many others in the population. Recent evidence shows it affects around 1 in 5 men over the age of 50 years. As this disease is often ‘silent’ in its presentation until fractures occur, it is frequently under diagnosed in the general population and as a result, people may not gain access to treatment until it is well-advanced.   

Dr Karen Matthews, who leads QMU’s Lydia Plus Osteoporosis Project, wants to highlight the risks of osteoporosis and raise awareness of the condition as a public health priority.

"There is a high prevalence of osteoporosis amongst the Scottish population. This is a preventable condition and, for those living with osteoporosis, it could be managed better with improved awareness and simple lifestyle changes. Both health professionals and the public could be better informed about ways to prevent the development of the disease through changes in their activity and choosing to eat a balanced bone healthy diet. For this reason, the focus of the symposium is on awareness raising and ways of achieving good bone health. The event will be as interactive as possible with experts from a range of disciplines sharing their knowledge on topics such as pregnancy associated osteoporosis, hip fractures and falls prevention. There will also be dancing and cooking demonstrations to make this a fun, active and stimulating experience."
Dr Karen Matthews, Lydia Plus Osteoporosis Project

“We are delighted to have leaders in their field contributing to our knowledge base including Dawn Skelton, Professor of Ageing and Health, and Dr Alison Black, Consultant Rheumatologist NHS Grampian Osteoporosis and Rheumatology Service.

Sir Paul Grice (Queen Margaret University’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor) will shed light on the history and impact of the Lydia Osteoporosis Project at QMU, which aims to raise awareness of osteoporosis, and the associated increased risk of fracture amongst healthcare staff caring for people with the condition.

In addition to this we are delighted to have Karen Whitehead MBE, Patient Advocate, and Kathryn Berg, Trials Manager, who will speak on their research into osteoporosis in pregnancy.” 

Laura Fregonese, Lecturer with QMU’s Lydia Plus Osteoporosis Project, talked about the interactive nature of the symposium.

"We want to demonstrate that simple changes in people’s daily activities can go a long way in helping prevent osteoporosis. That’s why we are incorporating a variety of fun interactive sessions to showcase how easy it is to improve bone health. For example, there will be various physical activities including a Scottish step dance taster session with Alison Carlyle. This is a great weight-bearing exercise for good bone health. We will also have a range of balance exercises guided by Becca Freeden, Research Assistant and PhD candidate with the Lydia Plus Osteoporosis Project. Our nutrition sessions, led by Sue O’Neill-Berest, Food Education Manager at Cyrenians, will showcase some delicious recipes that optimise bone healthy ingredients with a live “cook off."
Laura Fregonese, Lecturer with QMU’s Lydia Plus Osteoporosis Project
"This symposium builds on many years of research into osteoporosis developed by the Lydia Plus Osteoporosis Project at Queen Margaret University, and this event will bring together the latest from all aspects of osteoporosis research and services. We look forward to sharing vital information from a range of specialists and people living with osteoporosis to help strengthen our public health response to the prevention of osteoporosis across population groups in Scotland and beyond."
Dr Matthews, Lydia Plus Osteoporosis Project

 To find out more about the symposium on 20th October 2023 visit: Lydia Osteoporosis Symposium.  

Notes to Editor

Lydia Plus Osteoporosis Project  

The overall aims of the Lydia Plus Osteoporosis Project are to raise awareness of osteoporosis, and the associated increased risk of fracture, amongst healthcare staff caring for people with the condition. We are focused on investigating the implications of osteoporosis for moving and handling activities with older people in acute care and on promoting person-centred safe and effective practice. 

For further media information regarding the work of the project or the symposium, please contact Lynne Russell, Communications Manager, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, E:; M: 07711 011239 or copy to E:

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