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Street: Speech to Osteoporosis New Zealand Awards

Hon Maryan Street
Minister for ACC

22 October 2008 Speech
Embargoed until 6pm delivery

Speech to Osteoporosis New Zealand Awards

Speech delivered by ACC Minister Maryan Street to the “You deserve a medal” Osteoporosis New Zealand Awards in the Grand Hall, Parliament.

Thank you for inviting me to this special event which celebrates the way in which New Zealanders over the age of 65 are so actively making the most of life.

It is inspiring and humbling to share the spotlight with individuals who are so determined to enjoy a healthy and physically active lifestyle, well into their sixties, seventies, eighties and beyond.

First of all, I’d like to acknowledge our special guests today:

• The awards nominees and your friends and families
• Members of the Osteoporosis New Zealand Board
• And our popular Olympic champions Georgina and Caroline Evers-Swindell – who are Osteoporosis New Zealand’s Bone Ambassadors.

As the population of New Zealand ages, it is important that we all take responsibility for our health and wellbeing. For most of us, our quality of life is closely related to our ability to enjoy an active and independent lifestyle.

As individuals and as decision-makers there is much we can do.

Certainly, preventing osteoporosis and preventing falls are measures that will contribute greatly to the wellbeing of men and women as they age.

Osteoporosis is a disease that increases the risk of bone fracture in a fall. Up to 50 per cent of women and 30 per cent of men have an osteoporotic fracture during their lifetime. And you will be aware, of course, that the older the person is, the harder it is to recover from such an injury. Ninety per cent of all hip fractures are caused by falls. Indeed, about half of all patients in hospital for more than a week are men and women over 65 who have had a fall.

According to Osteoporosis New Zealand, within five years about 234,000 New Zealanders over 65 will be affected by osteoporosis. This figure is expected to rise as our population ages.

As Minister for ACC, I am delighted with the work going on both to prevent osteoporosis and falls. Just last month the nationwide Safety New Zealand Week, which was led by ACC, raised public awareness about the risks of injury in and around the home.

ACC’s focus this year on safety in the home showed how each year, one in seven New Zealanders is injured in the home, with over 36,000 ending up in hospital and 500 people being killed. Nearly half of all these home injuries are due to slips, trips and falls. Safety New Zealand Week helped people become more aware of what they can do to prevent such injuries.

Increasing public awareness of safety and prevention initiatives is in keeping with the role ACC has been taking for some years now – as the lead agency in the Government’s national falls prevention strategy through to 2015.

ACC’s nationwide fall prevention programmes – Tai Chi and the Otago Exercise Programme – have continued apace, strengthening the muscles and improving the balance of older people.

Tai Chi is being delivered to over 6,000 participants, mostly over 65 and the Otago Exercise Programme is being delivered to over 5,000 participants, mostly over 80. Well over 30,000 individuals have now benefited from the two programmes, which are producing excellent outcomes for those most at risk of a fall injury.

For the most part, these programmes are being delivered to older people who are living in their own homes.

In a few moments, ACC’s Director of Maori and Community Relations, Paula Snowden, will share with you more information about the successes of the fall prevention programmes.

And now, I have much pleasure in announcing a new intervention programme that is aimed at reducing injuries among older people who are at even more risk of falling.

Today, there are about 27,000 people over 65 in residential care throughout New Zealand. Their increased frailty increases their risk of falling; indeed about two thirds of these residents are likely to fall each year.

The aim of this programme is the provision of Vitamin D supplements to some 27,000 older adults in residential care and this will be rolled out over the next two years.

It is expected to reduce significantly the number of falls in this group as Vitamin D supplementation increases muscle strength so that gait and balance are improved. It also helps the absorption of calcium into the bones which helps bone density and reduces the risk of fractures.

This innovative programme will be funded and delivered through a joint ACC-DHB partnership. As our population ages, initiatives of this type are so important to us all.

In conclusion, I would like to thank Osteoporosis New Zealand for all the fine work you are doing for the many New Zealanders whose lives are affected by osteoporosis. In particular, I would like to recognise your work in the area of encouraging physical activity amongst older people. Your success is obvious this evening as we recognise and celebrate the examples shown by the four medal winners and indeed by all the nominees.

I would also like to thank you all for coming along today, especially the awards nominees and your friends and families.

My congratulations, you are an inspiration to us all.

Thank you.


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