In her work as President of the Royal Osteoporosis Society (formerly the National Osteoporosis Society), the Duchess of Cornwall aims to raise awareness and funds for a disease that impacts roughly three million people in the UK alone – many of whom don’t even know they have it.
But her reason for being so passionate about this work is quite a personal one.
“I first became involved with osteoporosis after both my mother and my grandmother died as a result of this devastating disease,” the Duchess of Cornwall said in a 2005 speech. “Then – only 11 years ago – very little was known in Britain about osteoporosis; it was seldom discussed, rarely diagnosed and usually attributed to old ladies with so-called “Dowagers Humps”.”
Her mother, Rosalind Shand, died in 1994 at the age of 71, after suffering from osteoporosis. This led the Duchess to become involved as patron for the National Osteoporosis Society from 1997 until 2001, when she became its president. In 2018, The Queen gave permission for the organisation to use its new royal name.
According to the Royal Osteoporosis Society, the disease, which causes bones to lose their strength and break more easily, can be found in “half of all women and one in five men, old and young; impacting mobility and causing unbearable agony. Osteoporosis doesn’t have any outward symptoms and the first sign is often a broken bone usually in the wrist or hip but most commonly in the spine.”
Over the years, the Duchess of Cornwall has participated in many events and fundraisers for the organisation, including hosting a Christmas tea party at Buckingham Palace in 2017 along with celebrity dancers from Strictly Come Dancing. She also has visited many hospitals across the UK to open facilities and meet with patients impacted by osteoporosis.
In 2007, she was given the Kohn Foundation Award in recognition of her contribution to raising awareness of osteoporosis. The Duchess also has her own award called the Duchess of Cornwall Award, which is presented in honour of an outstanding contribution to the field of osteoporosis.
Earlier this year, at the ceremony to launch the new Royal Osteoporosis Society, the Duchess said she wished her mother could have been there to see the progress that had been made in research and treatments for the disease.
At the launch, she discussed the importance of spreading the word to the younger generation, including her own children and grandchildren, that prevention is key when it comes to osteoporosis. “When you are young… you’re immortal. You don’t think about dying, getting old and breaking bones,” she said.
“But I think if we can just tell them how important it is to eat the right things, to take exercise – these will go a long way to keeping their bones healthy. I think the message is getting through slowly but surely, and I dare say, I hope, there will be a way forward to find a cure for this devastating disease. I’m sure we’re not far off it.”