Twenty Major National Organizations make Wellness Recommendations to President

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The International Council on Active Aging recently convened a meeting of industry leaders and allied organizations who engaged in a nonpartisan process to identify priorities and action items that will expand the definition of prevention to include active-aging and wellness concepts. We have identified recommendations, listed in this press release, that are specific and actionable.

As the words "wellness" and "prevention" circulate through the health care debates in the United States, active-aging industry leaders joined a nonpartisan think tank convened by International Council on Active Aging (ICAA), which has been leading, connecting and defining the active-aging industry since 2001. The goal of the think tank: to set direction and identify actions that enables healthcare reform to promote quality of life for older adults.

How does active aging intersect with health care reform? A stream of research shows that as people age, they maintain physical health, mental health and cognitive ability through physical activity, social interactions and intellectual stimulus. The industry leaders at the sixth annual ICAA Think Tank, held on September 22, 2009 in the Washington, DC, area, representing retirement communities and professional organizations serving older adults, made five key recommendations.

These recommendations focus on physical activity--including both recreational activity and planned exercise--because physical activity is measurable and a well-documented means to maintain or improve function, mobility and overall mental and physical health. People who are healthier have lower health care costs. For example, according to HealthPartners Research Foundation, people who were 50 years and older and started exercising moderately 90 minutes a week saved an average of $2,200 per year in medical costs.

For aging adults, a healthy lifestyle additionally results from intellectual and social activity, emotional balance, volunteering or paid work, a safe environment conducive to active living and a spiritual or inner compass. As the administration moves forward in planning prevention programs, we ask you to keep in mind that many types of activity improve health.

Recommendations:

1. Increase physical activity and healthy lifestyles among adults ages 50 years and older by offering tax incentives to companies that implement workforce wellness programs. Financial incentives for the employees and for the employer should increase according to employee participation.

2. Define clear markers of success that can be used by community centers, seniors centers, retirement housing and other organizations to show outcomes associated with lifestyle choices. The International Council on Active Aging and private organizations have key indicators that can demonstrate participation, health status and improvement over time. These indicators are compatible with other metrics that are being used; for example, the HEDIS measures for physicians or the proposed CMS reimbursement to physicians who prevent decline.

3. Encourage older adults to take charge of their health and improve their quality of life by extending tax deductions for physician-prescribed exercise programs for health conditions, e.g., hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, obesity (Department of the Treasury, Rev. Ruling 2002-19, qualified medical expense) to include fitness center visits, personal training sessions or rehabilitation therapy maintenance exercise programs when attendance can be proven and the results of periodic assessments can be reviewed.

4. Provide physicians and health care professionals with appropriate reimbursement and recognition for prescribing exercise and providing health education and regular lifestyle counseling to patients with chronic disease by requiring professional organizations and insurance companies to create billing codes for physicians and allied health professionals, such as nurse practitioners, for group sessions, individual counseling and wellness classes.

5. Increase the capacity of the health care workforce to understand and effectively treat older adults by encouraging scholarships or reimbursing costs for training and required classes in subjects such as gerontology, physical activity and exercise, health promotion or disease prevention.

About the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA)
ICAA is the world's largest membership association dedicated to changing the way we age by uniting professionals in the retirement, assisted living, recreation, fitness, rehabilitation and wellness fields. The council supports these professionals with education, information, resources and tools, so they can achieve optimal success with the growing population of people who are 50 years and older. As an active-aging educator and advocate, ICAA has advised numerous organizations and governmental bodies, including the US Administration on Aging, the National Institute on Aging (one of the US National Institutes of Health), the US Department of Health and Human Services, Canada's Special Senate Committee on Aging, and the British Columbia ministries of Health, and Healthy Living and Sport.

For interviews or more information about ICAA or aging-related issues, contact:

Colin Milner, CEO, International Council on Active Aging
Toll-free: 1-866-335-9777 (North America only)
Telephone: 604-734-4466; cell: 604-763-4595

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