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University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center
Publish Date: 11/12/02
Media Contact: AHC Public Relations, (513) 558-4553
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UC Experts Predict Geriatric Healthcare Shortage

Cincinnati--The population of the United States is aging, placing more demand on the medical community for quality care for the elderly. By the year 2030, 20 percent of the US population will be older than 65 years, up from 12.4 percent of the population in 2000. According to a study conducted by the University of Cincinnati and published in the November 13 Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), medical schools are not training enough geriatric medicine professionals to keep up with the growth in the elderly population.

Gregg Warshaw, MD, professor of Geriatric Medicine and Family Medicine at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, is the lead author of an article on this subject, which appears in the November 13 issue of JAMA. The article, "Academic Geriatric Programs in US Allopathic and Osteopathic Medical Schools," reports on a survey conducted as part of a two-year study by Dr. Warshaw and his colleagues from the UC Institute for Health Policy and Health Services Research. This work was supported by a grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation in Las Vegas, Nevada to the Association of Directors of Geriatric Academic Programs in New York City.

"The principles of geriatric medicine practice that have been developed over the past 50 years could be applied to improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of care for our elderly citizens who are sick, as well as those who are aging and maintaining their health," said Dr. Warshaw. "Unfortunately, when our team of researchers compiled data from five national surveys on geriatrics, we concluded that medical schools are encountering obstacles to developing robust geriatric programs."

Co-authors of the JAMA report are Elizabeth J. Bragg, PhD, RN; Ruth W. Shaull, MSN, RN; and Christopher J. Lindsell, PhD, of the UC Institute for Health Policy and Health Services Research. Their research predicts that at a time when the number of elderly will be greatly increasing, the number of certified geriatricians will decrease. For example, in 1998 there were more than 9,000 certified geriatricians in the country; by the year 2004 that number is expected to fall to approximately 6,000.

Academic geriatric programs across the country are organized in a variety of ways, but there are some widely recognized recommendations for staffing and programming standards. The Institute of Medicine recommends that medical schools have nine full time faculty in geriatrics; but the UC study found that 71percent of schools had fewer than nine faculty, and 52 percent of reporting schools had less than six faculty. Lack of research faculty and post graduates students, as well as poor reimbursement for clinical care were found to be significant obstacles to developing geriatric programs by more than half of the schools surveyed.

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