OHSU Researchers Begin One Of First Surveys About Osteoporosis In Older Rural Women

07/07/04    Portland, Ore.

The Oregon Rural Practice-based Research Network and the Bone and Mineral Unit of Oregon Health & Science University is undertaking a large-scale survey of approximately 7,000 Oregonians to study osteoporosis in rural Oregon. The subjects of the survey will be women aged 65 and older who live in 10 rural Oregon communities: Baker City, Elgin, Union, Halfway, John Day, Burns, Lincoln City, Pacific City, Reedsport, and The Dalles.

“There have been lots of studies conducted in urban areas, but almost none in rural areas. We hope to better understand how osteoporosis patients are being cared for in rural areas so we can devise ways of improving care,” said Eric Orwoll, M.D., principal investigator in the study. Orwoll is professor of medicine (endocrinology, diabetes and clinical nutrition), and assistant dean for research, OHSU School of Medicine; and director, OHSU General Clinical Research Center.

However, this information will not just be used to assess rural health care needs -- it has wider implications. “By understanding how osteoporosis is cared for anywhere, we will better understand the barriers to better care everywhere,” Orwoll said.

A short survey will be mailed to women in the selected rural communities during the next few weeks.

Osteoporosis is a common problem among older postmenopausal women. Of the women who live to be 85, approximately 50 percent will have an osteoporosis-related fracture during their lives; 25 percent of these women will develop an abnormality of the spine; and 15 percent will fracture their hip. While no clinical studies have been done to assess the effectiveness of screening in reducing osteoporotic fractures, there is ample evidence that bone density testing can adequately identify women who could benefit from treatment.

The survey is being funded by a research account in the OHSU Bone and Mineral Unit, and is expected to be completed this fall.

The mission of the Oregon Rural Practice-based Research Network is to improve the health of rural populations in Oregon through conducting and promoting health research in partnerships with the communities and their practitioners.

The network currently is working with 20 physicians’ offices located in 15 rural Oregon communities. The practices include 90 primary care clinicians who provide care for more than 120,000 patients. Current network research projects include studies on children’s health, immunization, osteoporosis, work flow of rural practices, and opioid prescribing and preventive care. Studies related to health information technology, literacy in primary care, colorectal cancer screening and health behavior interventions are in development. The network has researchers and research coordinators located throughout the state of Oregon.

More information about ORPRN can be found at www.ohsu.edu/orprn/
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