Bone Builders Program Fights Osteoporosis

Improve the Nation's Nutrition and Health
Research Year: 

It is estimated that one out of every two women over 50 will develop osteoporosis. Older men have also been identified as possibly at risk. This silent disease weakens bones, eventually causing fractures, disability and loss of quality of life for millions of people, especially the elderly. It is the number two reason for women's admissions into nursing homes. More than 28 million Americans who have osteoporosis or at high risk because of low bone mass; 80 percent of those affected are women. Although osteoporosis is both treatable and preventable, studies show that awareness is quite low among the U.S. population. Simple changes in diet and exercise can improve calcium levels in the body and strengthen bones before osteoporosis occurs. With the large baby boom generation now moving into the beginning life stage susceptible to osteoporosis, education and prevention is more important than ever.

Description of Action: 

A collaborative program called "Bone Builders" was developed as part of the University of Arizona partnership between Cooperative Extension in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the UA College of Public Health. The program brings together several public and private partners to reduce risk for osteoporosis statewide among women over 25 and men over 65 by increasing their awareness of the risks of osteoporosis and ways to prevent it from developing. The program recruits and retains community peer educators who teach local, community classes, and seeks to identify high risk women in each community and encourage them to get basic x-ray or ultrasound screening for bone density. In fall 2001, new funding allowed Bone Builders to concentrate more time teaching food stamp eligible women. Over three years of funding, more than 198 volunteers and staff were trained. The Web site,, was developed. Bone Builders displays were featured at health fairs, community fairs, health spas, statewide conferences and community libraries.

A new Bone Builders senior physical activity program was begun for inactive seniors in Tucson and Phoenix and at 10 senior centers in 2003. The program received the Preister Extension Health Award in April 2003 from USDA-CSREES, and an award from the City of Phoenix in December, 2003.


During 2002 and 2003 Bone Builders partners screened 2,571 women with ultrasound technology on a volunteer basis. Over the same two-year period, 18 county projects taught 16,000 people in 639 classes; 142 health fairs taught 30,249 people; and 2736 people received one-on-one instruction. A total of one million people were reached with education, materials, displays and media. A sample of 1513 class participants statewide in 2003 rated their class as 4.5 (out of 5 point schedule with 5 excellent). In Maricopa County, 835 bone density screenings were donated, valued at $30 each and totaling $25,050.
The Web site had 12,490 visitors in 2003, with 403,323 hits or 35 visitors per day, with an average of 32 hits per visit.

Funding Agencies: 

UA Cooperative Extension; UA College of Public Health; County Department of Public Health Services; Dairy Council of Arizona; Arizona Department of Agriculture; Arizona Osteoporosis Coalition; Scottsdale Health Care; Phoenix Center for Clinical Research; Arizona Department of Health Services; Arizona Nutrition Network

Conact Name: 
Sharon Hoelscher-Day
Contact E-mail: 
Contact Address: 

University of Arizona

Maricopa County Cooperative Extension

4341 E. Broadway, Phoenix, AZ 85040-8807

Telephone: (602) 470-8086, ext. 332 FAX: (602) 470-8092