U.S. Unprepared for
Impact of Aging Population on Health
Workforce According to UAlbany Center
for Health Workforce Studies
Shortages of RNs, geriatric specialists pose significant strains on health services for Elderly
Contact: Catherine Herman (518) 437-4980
ALBANY, N.Y. (April 5, 2006) -- The United States is unprepared to meet the health care challenges posed by its aging population, according to a new study by the Center for Health Workforce Studies (CHWS) at the University at Albany's School of Public Health. The report, The Impact of the Aging Population on the Health Workforce in the United States, examines the implications of population aging for the health workforce, both in the context of caring for older adults (65+) and on health care professions and occupations.
"The older adult population will be larger, more ethnically diverse, and have a higher education level than previous generations," said Jean M. Moore, director of CHWS. "As demand for health services grows, large numbers of health care workers will be retiring at the same time, making shortages likely. We had a six percent nursing shortage in 2005 and that will grow to a 29 percent shortage by 2020. We also lack enough people trained as geriatric specialists to meet the needs of this growing cohort of older Americans."
The report also found that while the number of new physicians currently entering practice each year should be adequate to meet aggregate demand for services, this supply may not be sufficient to meet the needs of older adults. This population is far more likely to live in rural areas, where physicians are often in short supply and access to transportation is limited.
Other findings of the study include:
- Older adults are more likely to
suffer chronic illnesses (cancer, heart
disease diabetes) and need more and different
health services than younger adults.
Yet, most health professionals
receive limited training on care to older
adults and, in the future, will need
better training in geriatric issues,
such as chronic disease management.
- Older adults consume more ambulatory
care, hospital services, nursing
home services and home health services
than younger people. The new demands
placed on the health care system for
health services will not only include
a need for more workers, but also require
changes in the way services are provided.
- While older adults are expected
to become increasingly diverse, many
health professions are not, and this
lack of diversity could contribute to
disparities in health outcomes.
- Many health professions, particularly
those with long educational trajectories
such as medicine and psychology,
are older than average and are at greater
risk for depletion as the population
- Future demand for health workers to serve older adults will be affected by emerging technologies: Automated pill packaging in pharmacies; video-links that allow urban medical specialists to "see" a rural patient and consult with a primary care physician; sensors that monitor an Alzheimer's patient's location.
Copies of the full report may be downloaded from the Center's web site.
The Center for Health Workforce Studies at the University at Albany's School of Public Health conducts studies of the supply, demand, use and education of the health workforce, and collects and analyzes data to understand workforce dynamics and trends. It is one of six regional centers devoted to health workforce studies with a cooperative agreement with U.S. Department of Health's Health Resources and Services Administration/Bureau of Health Professions. For more information, visit the Center for Health Workforce Studies.
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