Newscast: Obesity on the Rise in the U.S.
Rand: This is Healthcare 411 for the week of January 14, 2009.
Debra: Healthcare 411 is produced by AHRQ, the Agency for Healthcare
Research and Quality, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Debra: I’m Debra James.
Rand: And I’m Rand Gardner.
Debra: Coming up:
Rand: Pressure Ulcers, or bedsores as they’re commonly known, typically
occur among the elderly or those immobilized due to illness or injury. Today
this deadly condition is on the rise in U.S. hospitals.
Debra: And a new study says medical residents need protected periods of
sleep during their shifts to reduce the risk of fatigue-related medical errors.
Rand: And AHRQ Director Dr. Carolyn Clancy talks about the prevention and
treatment of a major health crisis facing our nation: obesity.
Debra: It’s all coming up on Healthcare 411!
[Begin PSA: Be an Active Member of Your Health Care Team]
Narrator: Former Olympic skater and now orthopedic surgeon Dr. Debi
Debi Thomas: Learning a sport can take time, determination and training.
The same thing is also true of a healthy lifestyle. Eat right. Exercise. And
don’t smoke. Be an active member of your health care team. Together you can
fight diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and osteoporosis. Start
training today for a healthier life. Be active in your health care!
Narrator: For more information go to
www.ahrq.gov. A message from the
U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
Rand: Now the numbers.
Rand: Pressure ulcers, or bedsores as they are commonly known, are painful and
can be life threatening. New research from AHRQ reveals that hospitalizations
involving patients with pressure ulcers increased by nearly 80 percent between
1993 and 2006. Patients who can’t move for long periods of time are most likely
to develop pressure ulcers because of the friction of their skin, soft tissue,
muscle or bone resting against the bed. Older patients, stroke victims, people
who are paralyzed or those with diabetes or dementia are especially vulnerable.
Severe cases can lead to life-threatening infections. About 1 in 25 hospital
admissions for treatment of pressure ulcers ended with the death of the patient.
Debra: Medical residents need protected periods of sleep during their shifts,
along with better supervision and more training to reduce the risk of
fatigue-related medical errors. That’s according to a new AHRQ-funded report
issued by the Institute of Medicine that reviewed the relationship between
residents’ work schedules, their performance and quality of care. The study
confirms fatigued residents are more likely to make mistakes. But IOM committee
members say the risk of errors could be reduced through several changes
including protected sleep periods for residents, increased supervision of
residents and their work hour limits, and set days off to ensure restful
recovery after long shifts. The report also recommends limits for on-call
periods, stronger moonlighting restrictions, and safe transportation home for
residents who are too tired to drive. But IOM committee members say more sleep
isn’t the only thing that will improve safety and improve the quality of
residents’ training environment. Increased supervision and training are also
needed, along with increased resident involvement in all patient safety
Up next, tips for navigating the health care system.
Rand: The new year is a time when many of us resolve to lose weight and eat
healthier. But for people who are either overweight or obese, getting to a
healthy weight, and staying there, can require a major lifestyle change. AHRQ
Director Dr. Carolyn Clancy is here to talk about this issue. Thanks for joining
us, Dr. Clancy. First, can you give us an idea of how big a problem this is?
Dr. Clancy: This is one of the most serious problems we face. In the United
States, obesity among adults doubled between 1980 and 2004. Today, two out of
three adults are considered to be overweight, and about 27 percent of Americans
over the age of 20 are obese. Even more troubling, 17 percent of all children in
the United States are overweight.
Rand: How do you define being overweight or obese?
Dr. Clancy: Overweight and obesity are labels for ranges of weight that are
greater than what is generally considered to be healthy for a given height. For
adults, overweight and obesity ranges are determined by using weight and height
to calculate a number called the "body mass index," or BMI. An adult who has a
BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered to be overweight. An adult with a BMI of
30 or higher is considered to be obese.
Rand: What are some of the risks involved with being overweight or obese?
Dr. Clancy: Studies have found that being obese or overweight increases your
risk of developing serious chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, high blood
pressure, stroke, diabetes and several types of cancer. Osteoarthritis, gall
bladder disease, sleep apnea, respiratory impairment and diminished mobility are
also associated with obesity.
Rand: What would you recommend to the growing numbers of obese individuals who
are unable to lose weight on their own?
Dr. Clancy: The good news is that dropping even as little as five to seven
percent of body weight can make you feel better and improve your health. A blue
ribbon task force shows that people can change their behavior through intensive
counseling on diet and exercise. This, in turn, can produce modest weight loss
for a year or more. People are also increasingly turning to surgery to lose
weight. This is a very serious decision, and it’s important to choose a surgeon
who has a lot of experience.
Rand: Dr. Clancy, do you have any advice for parents with children who are
struggling with their weight?
Dr. Clancy: A new report from my agency, the Agency for Healthcare Research and
Quality, has found that, along with increasing exercise and eating healthier,
behavior management programs also help obese children and teens lose weight or
prevent weight gain. The bottom line is that there are options for all family
members. The best approach is for you to talk to your doctor to get all the
information you need to help you decide what is best for you and your family.
I’m Dr. Carolyn Clancy and that’s my advice for navigating the health care
Rand: For more information on weight management and other health-related stories
and topics, go to healthcare411.ahrq.gov.
Rand: That’s it for this week. For more information on these and other
health-related stories and topics go to
Debra: Healthcare 411 is produced by AHRQ, the Agency for Healthcare Research
and Quality, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. For Rand
Gardner, I’m Debra James. Please join us for the next edition of Healthcare 411.