Yesterday, Judy Stenmark, CEO of the International Osteoporosis Foudation (IOF), was at Danone’s headquarters to officially acknowledge and certify Danone’s participation in the IOF Corporate Responsibility Programme for Bone Health. Her presence testified that Danone, as part of its mission to “bringing health through food to as many people as possible,” is committed to promoting bone health. It does so notably through its participation in the Corporate Responsibility Programme in France, but also thanks to other initiatives in its subsidiaries worldwide.
Osteoporosis: a major stake in ageing countries
Is osteoporosis one of the major diseases of the 21st century? In 1998, the International Osteoroposis Foundation (IOF) was created at the European Congress of Osteoporosis in Berlin. The new entity was the result of the merge between the European Foundation for Osteoporosis (EFFO), created in 1987, and the International Federation of Societies on Skeletal Diseases (IFSSD), established in 1995. The merge was decided after they both recognised “the need for a single, global organisation to bring together scientists, doctors, the patient society movement and corporate partners,” as explains the IOF’s website. At the time, Dr. André Prost, director for non-communicable diseases at the World Health Organisation (WHO), declared: “The timing could not be better for the formation of IOF. The World Health Organisation has identified osteoporosis as a priority health issue along with other major non-communicable diseases.”
In fact, while the population of the developed world ages, the prevalence of osteoporosis increases. In France, the National Statistics Institute estimates that by 2035, people over 60 will represent 31% of the population. The situation is similar in other developed countries – and even more so in countries with lower birth rates. Because the population ages, mechanically the number of people suffering from osteoporosis increases.
According to the IOF, one out of three women over 50 will experience osteoporotic fractures,
vs. one in five men. The disease is in fact closely linked to age. Its name literally means “porous bones”: the density and quality of bones reduce as people age, and as the bones become more porous, the risk of fracture increases. Osteoporosis is silent and progressive – and is often not diagnosed until a first fracture occurs. Its causes range from genetic predisposition to a series of lifestyle habits, which means that there is a lot to be done on the prevention front.
Danone’s prevention actions toward its employees
“Lifestyle factors such as diet and physical activity influence bone development in youth and the rate of bone loss later in life,” says the IOF. Calcium and vitamin D intakes are therefore both essential to build and keep strong, dense and healthy bones throughout life, along with healthy everyday habits. The IOF thus recommends that adults “ensure a nutritious diet and adequate calcium intake; avoid under-nutrition, particularly the effects of severe weight-loss diets and eating disorders; maintain an adequate supply of vitamin D; participate in regular weight-bearing activity; avoid smoking and second-hand smoking; avoid heavy drinking.”
These recommendations need to be spread and shared; and the “nutrition” part resonates with Danone’s mission to “bring health through food to as many people as possible.”
Danone is in fact committed to improving its employees’ health, notably through programmes such as Health@Work and DanCares. And it has also developed actions in favour of bone health, through a participation in the IOF Corporate Responsibility Programme for Bone Health. The latter, designed by the IOF, provides a series of tools and recommendations to companies who wish to “become good corporate citizens in the field of bone health, in providing their staff and families with information and opportunities to improve the health of their bones.” Danone has implemented these tools at its headquarters in Paris as well as at the Danone Nutricia Research Centre in Palaiseau.
Today, Judy Stenmark, CEO of the IOF, officially acknowledges Danone’s participation in the Corporate Responsibility Programme and its commitment to bone health. As Thomas Kunz, Executive Vice-President of the Dairy Worldwide Business Unit at Danone, declared:
Our Corporate Responsibility Program for Bone Health is of great significance to us and to be recognized by the IOF is a major achievement.
Convinced by the importance of bone health, and in line with our mission of bringing health through food to as many people as possible, we are committed to raise awareness and engage people to embrace a bone-healthy lifestyle. Starting with our own employees at Danone Place Paris/Danone Nutricia Research Palaiseau, our task now is to further roll this out to all employees in Danone subsidiaries worldwide.”
Subsidiaries take action too
In fact, on top of the actions led in France, Danone, through several subsidiaries, already promotes bone health among its employees worldwide.
In Brazil, on the occasion of the World Osteoporosis Day (October 20th), employees were invited to participate in a “Walking Day for Bone Health”. They could also visit a bone-shaped tunnel featuring an educational exhibition about bone health. For those who are over 45, personalized analyses were available in the form of calcium checks and bone scans.
In 2012, all of Danone’s employees in Brazil had already had the opportunity to take bone scans at the office.
Finally, as part of Danone’s “Health & Nutrition” programme, they receive advice and information on how to prevent osteoporosis and on their calcium intake.
In Argentina, Danone’s employees were given the opportunity to make a “calcium test”, in order to evaluate the difference between their actual intake and the daily recommended intake. In Spain, Uruguay and Mexico, similar actions have been led to raise awareness among the general public on the subjects of bone health and osteoporosis.
The variety of these initiatives shows Danone’s commitment, not only to the health of its employees, but to the matter of bone health in general. The acknowledgment of its participation in the IOF Corporate Responsibility Programme for Bone Health rewards part of these efforts, and highlights how Danone’s activity and mission relate to bone health. Healthy bones can be maintained thanks to nutrition and physical activity: it is part of Danone’s activity to design products fortified in calcium and vitamin D for bone health and to promote healthy lifestyles, both for its employees and the consumers.
Photo: © Olivier BORDE