What is the National Osteoporosis Foundation?

Meg Higa

The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) is an organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., that was established to promote awareness of the bone disease osteoporosis in the United States and advocate for its treatment. The NOF attempts to educates the public, professionals and government officials to recognize that osteoporosis — once thought of as a common, even inevitable, effect of old age — is a disease that is potentially both preventable and curable. The National Osteoporosis Foundation is funded by various sources, including government grants, other charitable foundations and contributions from corporations and individuals. Corporate partners support and participate in awareness activities, such as National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month every May.

Osteoporosis is a condition that results in weakened and fragile bones.
Osteoporosis is a condition that results in weakened and fragile bones.

In the spring of 1984, the U.S. National Institute of Health (NIH) convened a Consensus Development Conference on Osteoporosis with the aim of adopting federal guidelines and strategies for a disease of significant importance. Average lifespan was increasing, the United States' population demographic was expected to shift with the pending retirement of the "baby-boomer" generation, and public healthcare costs were accelerating. Representatives from a broad range of medical fields pooled the most current scientific information on osteoporosis at the time and provided recommendations to the NIH. The conference generated media attention, and from the resulting deluge of queries from the engaged public, it became clear to organizers that a permanent clearinghouse for the dissemination of information was necessary. By the end of that year, the National Osteoporosis Foundation had been created.

Osteoporosis is no longer seen as a common, untreatable effect of old age.
Osteoporosis is no longer seen as a common, untreatable effect of old age.

NOF is a nonprofit, voluntary organization dedicated specifically to osteoporosis and generally to human bone health. Though compliant with the Good Operating Practices Standards, the NOF maintains independence from the National Institute of Health. In its attempts to inform both the general public and healthcare professionals with scientific objectivity, the NOF does not endorse specific products, services or medical points of view. Governed by a board of trustees with a medical background, the foundation attempts to be particularly mindful of providing a wide scope of information within its own publications and educational outreach programs.

Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by a weakening of skeletal bone tissue. The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that, at any given time, various stages of osteoporosis might be affecting 10 million Americans, of which a disproportionate 80 percent are women. In addition to the crippling progression of the disease, what might otherwise be a simple bruise from a minor fall can cause bones which have become abnormally brittle to easily fracture. Through public education and community outreach, principles of lifelong bone health, such as the importance of vitamin D and calcium, are promoted as effective ways to prevent osteoporosis. Through dissemination of research and training of healthcare professionals, the National Osteoporosis Foundation attempts to support the lives of those who have the condition and to press for an eventual cure.

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