Surgeon general's breastfeeding Call to Action takes a public health approach
Posted Jan 24 2011 12:00am
Older Americans crave independence. They want to live at home, and they want to live well. For many, there is a stumbling block. Food.
Access to food can be an issue. Perhaps more important is access to the right kinds of food. Good nutrition is essential to healthy aging, especially in older people with multiple health concerns, says UAB's Julie Locher.
Locher, Ph.D., MSPH, is director of UAB's Public Policy and Aging Program, in the UAB Center for Aging . She's an invited panelist for a round-table discussion hosted at the AARP Foundation in Washington on Wed. Jan. 26. The title: “Older Adult Hunger/Food Insecurity: Research Issues, Gaps and Priorities."
"It is possible for older adults to experience conditions related to both under- and over-nutrition," says Locher. "Obesity is still a problem for American seniors, but poor nutrition, whether from lack of food or lack of good food choices, is a growing problem.
Alabama ranks poorly in some key indicators for older adults, says Locher, including 4th in diabetes incidence and 7th in food insecurity for seniors -- food insecurity is defined as "limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways." Food insecurity can lead to hunger and fear of starvation.
Locher agrees with the call to action from the American Dietetic Association , the American Society for Nutrition and the Society for Nutrition Education : all older adults should have access to food and nutrition programs that ensure the availability of safe, adequate food to promote optimal nutritional status. Appropriate food and nutrition programs include adequately funded food assistance and meal programs, nutrition education, screening, assessment, counseling, therapy, monitoring, evaluation, and outcomes documentation to ensure more healthful aging.
This isn't just food for thought; Locher is taking action. She and colleague Jamy Ard, M.D., are kicking off a lifestyle intervention study at UAB to improve the health of older adults through exercise and diet.
It's a subject that will continue to draw interest. We're rapidly approaching an age-wave, as the baby boom generation chugs toward retirement age.