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A preventative health education programme for osteoporosis


  • Dean Whitehead MSc RN,

  • John Keast BSc MSc RN,

  • Val Montgomery,

  • Sue Hayman GradDipPhys

Dean Whitehead,
College of Humanities and Social Sciences,
School of Health Sciences,
Massey University,
Private Bag 11 222,
Palmerston North,
New Zealand.


Background.  Osteoporosis is a preventable disease that is usually not managed until the disease becomes evident, although it places huge economic and social burdens on societies worldwide. It is predicted that this burden will grow if left unchecked. Despite this, evidence suggests that osteoporosis prevention activity is given a low priority, and services often only provide biomedically-based programmes, in which resources are predominantly allocated to screening and pharmacological treatments. Referral to these services mostly occurs when a client is already known to have osteoporosis or to be at risk, rather than as an early preventative intervention.

Aim.  This paper reports an action research project with one hospital osteoporosis service. The aim of the project was to assess the current service, identify areas where change was needed, and evaluate the implementation of such changes.

Method.  Participatory action research was used, with group meetings and reflective journals to collect data for analysis. The process involved assessment of a preventative osteoporosis service, and determination of clinical issues and problems, and it aided decisions on an appropriate course of organizational reform and evaluated any change processes as they occurred. It also encouraged participants to reflect on and evaluate their experiences of using a participatory framework.

Conclusion.  A change programme was implemented that focused on preventative health education activity in a range of clinical settings. Over the two and a half years of the project, the osteoporosis service expanded its programme to include a wide range of preventative activities, running alongside other organizational reforms.