November 1, 2017

Study Says Obesity is Problem in Finding Care After Hospitalization

Nov. 1, 2017 | Transitions in care for obese people who need to be transferred to nursing homes after hospitalization are being overlooked, a study published in the Western Journal of Nursing Research by faculty at the UAMS Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health and the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing finds.

Elderly, obese patients who have chronic conditions need their own care models to avoid complications that happen for a frustrating reason: often, when they are ready to leave the hospital, there’s no place for them to go.

C O P H Associate Professor Department of Health Policy and Management ( H P M ) Holly Felix, P h D, M P A

Holly Felix, PhD. associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management

“Older adults have not been immune from the obesity epidemic and are increasingly needing long-term care services,” says co-author Holly Felix, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the College of Public Health. “We are pleased that our study is contributing to the literature on this important and rapidly emerging topic.”

Surveyed for the study were discharge staff from hospitals in Arkansas, which has one of the nation’s highest obesity rates at 35.7 percent, and Pennsylvania, which has a rate of 30.3 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lead author is Christine Bradway, Ph.D., associate professor of Gerontological Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania

Researchers found that patient size and perceived availability of bariatric equipment can act as barriers to discharging obese patients to nursing homes. A third of the respondents reported being unable to transfer obese patients, for reasons such as reimbursement, staffing and lack of equipment. Those claiming that nursing homes lacked the right equipment were seven times more likely to say the patient’s size was a barrier to admitting the person.

Failure to move patients who are severely obese out of hospitals into other care facilities has the potential to lead to poor outcomes associated with extended hospital stays. These include an elevated risk for harm and increased cost.

“With these findings, we hope to inform additional research on obesity in long-term care and identify actionable policy and practices to address obesity-related disparities in access to and quality of long-term care services,” says Felix.

Other co-authors of the study include Xiaocong Li, PhD(c) of the College of Public Health and Tonya Whitfield of Hornby Zeller Associates.