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D-H Responds to Alarming Increase of Obesity in Elderly Patients

D-H Responds to Alarming Increase of Obesity in Elderly Patients

This project will allow us to look at how we can use technology to change behaviors in older adults with weight problems to not only lose weight, but importantly to improve strength, physical function, and quality of life.

John A. Batsis, MD

Emerging technologies may encourage elderly people with obesity to improve their strength, make them safer in their homes and lose weight by helping them to change their behavior.

The first-year grant of $159,000 from the National Institute on Aging will allow Dr. John A. Batsis to focus on strategies for improving health care delivery and wellness in older adults with obesity by using video conferencing, personal monitoring devices and frequent coaching by healthcare providers. The award is expected to total $796,500 over a five-year period and all NIH grants are subject to available funds in the fiscal years following an award. 

“In addition to an alarming increase in obesity in older adults – almost an epidemic – aging is associated with progressive muscle loss that places overweight elders at very high risk,” Batsis said. “This project will allow us to look at how we can use technology to change behaviors in older adults with weight problems to not only lose weight, but importantly to improve strength, physical function, and quality of life,” says Batsis. “The later stages of the award will incorporate telehealth to test whether we can deliver health and wellness interventions in patients’ homes. This has the potential to have a significant impact in rural areas where access to medical care and transportation issues pose challenges to an aging population.”

The research by Batsis, a geriatrician in General Internal Medicine at Dartmouth-Hitchcock and an Associate Professor of Medicine at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth and at The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice, has been supported to date by the Dartmouth Centers for Health and Aging and the Department of Medicine, and will be based in the Population Health Collaboratory at Dartmouth-Hitchcock where he is a researcher focusing on "improving the care of older adults in a primary care."

Additional collaborators on this project include faculty and students from the Department of Computer Science and the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College, as well as Dartmouth’s SYNERGY Clinical and Translational Science Institute and the Center for Telehealth at Dartmouth-Hitchcock.

“The national epidemic of obesity is also affecting older adults, and is associated with an increased risk of functional impairment, nursing home placement and early mortality,” Batsis said. “Conventional weight loss programs have the potential to reduce body fat, but are difficult to access for older adults with obesity due to transportation and mobility challenges. Many people also experience a detrimental loss of muscle and bone and innovative technologies, including mobile Health, sensors, and video-conferencing, can also improve physical function with behavioral management.”

A pilot study of the feasibility and effectiveness of a Mobile Health Obesity Wellness Intervention in older adults with obesity will be conducted with a team of dieticians, physical therapists, technologists and researchers at D-H to improve physical function and independence at home using a mobile health device, Batsis explains. “The strategy has the potential to improve the health of a rapidly aging demographic with obesity, reduce healthcare costs and if successful, allow program dissemination to distant, remote areas for improvement in healthcare quality.”

This research is supported by the National Institute On Aging of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number K23AG051681. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.


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