Five thousand people from the Dubbo region have been involved in a landmark osteoporosis study which was undertaken over the course of 30 years and the findings of which will help shape our knowledge of this "silent killer".
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In 1989, the Garvan Institute began the Dubbo Osteoporosis Epidemiology Study (DOES), under which thousands of participants from the 2830 postcode attended a clinic at Dubbo Hospital every two years so researchers could collect information about their bones.
The study, which concluded in 2022, was responsible for many important findings about osteoporosis, including that that it doesn't only affect women - it's also a men's disease. While women are more likely to undergo an initial fracture, men are at greater risk of subsequent fractures and premature mortality, the study found.
The DOES has also helped test medication, and has been responsible for the launch of the Know Your Bones web tool (knowyourbones.org.au), which can now be used by GPs to assess bone health in their patients.
And this is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the possible findings that could be gleaned from this study in the future.
In 1994, the clinicians decided to look at a younger group of people, and they contacted people who were born from 1930 to 1945. Of these, 2334 people joined the study.
In 1997, they expanded the study to include the children and grandchildren of the participants, of which 13,484 signed up.
Ms Watters said the selfless people who participated were "amazing".
"The Dubbo community were - and are - amazing, in that they all hold the Garvan Institute," Ms Watters told the Daily Liberal.
Garvan is one of the biggest research institutes in the southern hemisphere, and the DOES study was part of the bone division.
"It's been a wonderful thing for Dubbo and the people of Dubbo. Osteoporosis is a silent killer. You can have it and you have no pain, no signs and symptoms until you fall over and break a bone," Ms Watters said.
Ms Watters said she had enjoyed taking the participants through their tests every two years, which included walking, balance, eyesight, and questionnaires about their quality of life.
"I've been [at the Garvan Institute] for 28 of the 33 years [of the DOES] so they're all like my family," she said. "I can walk down the street and so many people smile at you."
Dubbo resident Gaye Mitchell, 59 years old, was involved in the study since 1997, as the daughter of parents who were part of the original DOES cohort. Her maiden name is Hartley and the Hartley family were one of the study's "famous five" due to their very high bone densities - something the clinicians were extremely interested in finding more about.
Ms Mitchell said she signed-up because she understood it had the potential to help a lot of people.
"That's always good if you can help people with other illnesses that are suffering a lot more than you are," Ms Mitchell said.
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The scans and x-rays became part of her life every two years for over 20 years.
"We've been really lucky with our family and also it showed later with mum and dad in life, if they had a fall they didn't break anything, any bones - they were so fortunate. And I think now, even with myself, we're very lucky that way," she said.
Her parents decided to participate in the study back in the eighties because they liked helping people.
Ms Mitchell will be attending the Dubbo Gratitude Morning Tea which will be held by the Garvan Institute on Tuesday, October 31 to thank the generous people in Dubbo who participated in the DOES from 1989 until 2022.
Garvan is inviting all those who participated to the lunch. Please register your RSVP for catering purposes at www.garvan.org.au/dubbo-gratitude-morning-tea or by contacting Janet Watters at 0418 247 547.
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