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Last month, the Department of Human Services joined the New Jersey Interagency Council on Osteoporosis (ICO) in honoring recipients of the ICO’s 2014 Osteoporosis Prevention Awards. Deputy Commissioner Lowell Arye recognized volunteers and professionals who made significant contributions to osteoporosis prevention and education certificates of achievement at the ICO’s June meeting.

 “Although older adults are disproportionately affected by a disease such as osteoporosis, there is much evidence-based information which shows that preventive and educational programs can help improve lives—even for those already affected.  Such programs can enable older adults to continue living independent, active and productive lives in the community,” said Arye. “For instance, many seniors can learn and practice healthy behaviors in the areas of falls’ prevention, physical activity and good nutrition and diet.”

 “Our recipients today are being congratulated for their commitment to serving their neighbors and supporting home and community living with their efforts to promote health and wellness,” added Arye before presenting the awards to this year’s recipients.

  • The Community Advocate Award – This year, four Project Healthy Bones (PHB) volunteer leaders were honored for their outstanding commitment to the program:

§  Kathryn Richards (Hopewell Twp.) is a retired nurse who has led PHB classes in the courtroom of the Hopewell Township Municipal Building for 12 years.  She leads classes twice-a-week, promotes the program at health fairs and has secured grant funding to purchase program materials.

§  Jackie Strigl (Stockton) leads classed twice-a-week at the Hunterdon Senior Center in Flemington.  During her nine years as a PHB leader, she has recruited other leaders and founded a class for PHB graduates from throughout the county so they can continue exercising and learning in a group setting.

§  Mary Lou Mills (Wall Twp.) has been a PHB leader since 2005.  She runs two classes in the morning as well as one of the few evening classes available in the state.  She has recruited and trained peer leaders and encouraged some to become lead coordinators and take PHB to other locations, including St. Catherine’s Church in Spring Lake.  Ms. Mill’s classes meet at the United Methodist Church in Manasquan.  When the church needed the class space for Superstorm Sandy relief efforts, Ms. Mills spent countless hours helping her church organize and assist those affected by the storm before resuming PHB classes several months past the storm.

§  Elinor Ramming (Atlantic Highlands) has been a PHB instructor for 11 years and leads weekly classes at two senior centers in two different towns -- Middletown and Eatontown.  She keeps participants up-to-date on osteoporosis news by finding resources in print and on-line and sharing them with her groups.

  • The Professional Award – Kathleen (KK) Hodapp (Oak Ridge), Coordinator of the Offray Arthritis Center at Morristown Medical Center, is the program trainer for Project Healthy Bones and has been actively involved in the program since its inception in 1999.  The infrastructure she established for training agency-based lead coordinators and volunteer peer leaders assures consistency and maintains the integrity of PHB.  KK also oversees a statewide listserv that provides medical advice, timely information, and prompt feedback to program leaders. Her first-hand knowledge of the program and the needs of people with osteoporosis have contributed greatly to the success of the program.

 Osteoporosis, known as the “Silent Disease,” is a serious condition in which bones become thin, brittle and easily broken.  Nearly 1.5 million New Jersey residents either have or are at high risk for developing osteoporosis (National Osteoporosis Foundation, NOF, 2014).  About 7,100 individuals over age 65 have a hip fracture annually (US DHHS Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, AHRQ).  In this state, the cost per hip fracture with hospitalization ranges from $19,000-$24,000 (AHRQ).  About one quarter of hip fracture patients aged 50 and over will die within the first year following their fractures (NOF).   

 Osteoporosis can be prevented through healthy behaviors including a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, weight-bearing exercise, a healthy lifestyle without smoking or excessive alcohol consumption, and bone density testing and medications when appropriate.  New Jersey's strategy for preventing and reducing falls includes three nationally recognized programs: Project Healthy Bones, the fall prevention program A Matter of Balance, and Take Control of Your Health, a program developed by Stanford University and known nationally as the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program, as well as New Jersey’s own eight-module health education curriculum, HealthEASE.

 “These programs are instrumental to providing needed education and training to seniors so that they can continue to live healthy and active lives in the community,” said Arye.

 Project Healthy Bones is a once-a-week, 24-week peer-led low impact exercise and education program available in all New Jersey counties.  The program is designed to decrease bone loss, increase bone density and improve strength, balance and flexibility.  More than 1,500 older adults participate in Project Healthy Bones annually.   

  • A Matter of Balance is a nationally-recognized, evidence-based and peer-led falls prevention program that is new to New Jersey.  Currently available in eight counties, the program is designed to increase activity levels of older adults while reducing the fear of falling.  In 2013, 22 workshops were held statewide.
  • Take Control of Your Health is a six-week, peer-led program in which participants learn strategies for managing symptoms, working with health care professionals, setting weekly goals, solving problems, relaxing, handling difficult emotions, eating well, and exercising safely and easily. A Spanish language version of the program, Tomando Control de su Salud, and a diabetes-specific program are also available in New Jersey.
  • HealthEASE is a New Jersey Department of Human Services-sponsored education series developed by the Geriatric Education Center of the New Jersey Institute for Successful Aging at the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine.  It includes important information on eight health topics including nutrition, physical activity, heart disease, memory improvement, osteoporosis, fall prevention, women’s health and the safe use of medications. The eight modules can be delivered as separately or as a series of workshops. The modules are "turn-key" in that each includes all of the materials leaders need to conduct the session. The osteoporosis and falls prevention modules were presented 73 times in 2013, reaching 1,421 people.

The New Jersey Interagency Council on Osteoporosis is dedicated to the development, implementation and evaluation of a comprehensive osteoporosis prevention and education program for the benefit of New Jersey residents.

 For more information on the ICO, Project Healthy Bones, A Matter of Balance, Take Control of Your Health or HealthEASE, call 609-588-6654 or go on-line to

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