Former Liberal leader John Hewson has called for greater action to tackle poor bone health, which is costing the nation an estimated $2.75 billion a year.
Dr Hewson is the chairman of Osteoporosis Australia, which on Wednesday launched a report warning that the staggering burden of osteoporosis, osteopenia (low bone density) and fractures would reach $33.6 billion over the next decade. Osteoporosis and osteopenia affect two-thirds of Australians aged over 50, accounting for about 4.74 million people.
While popularly considered a "women's disease", men account for up to 30 per cent of all fractures related to osteoporosis and osteopenia.
The report estimates there were 3600 preventable deaths in Australia in 2012 associated with osteoporotic fractures.
"A number of these deaths are preventable, and there is much we can do to preserve people's quality of life as they age," Dr Hewson said.
Dr Hewson said programs which educated young people to maintain their bone health by getting enough sun, enough calcium and doing weight bearing exercise could save the health budget billions of dollars.
"It is time the nation took bone health seriously," he said.
"We are calling on healthcare professionals to make bone health a higher priority and the community to be aware of the risk factors and prevention strategies."
Dr Hewson also called for access to be widened to Medicare-funded bone-density scanning, and for better support for patients to prevent re-fractures.