Monday, September 29, 2008

Persons with Serious Mental Illness Face Higher Prevalence of Obesity

“Obesity is a public health crisis within the general population; however, overweight and obesity issues are even more prevalent in persons with serious mental illness, according to a new report, scheduled to be released on October 3, 2008 by the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD). Findings and recommendations from the report appear in the September 22 issue of Mental Health Weekly, making the journal the first major media outlet to inform the public of this new technical report. NASMHPD calls the crisis ‘an epidemic within an epidemic,’ and say they hope the new report will go a long way toward improving the systems that provide care and treatment to the SMI population. The specific recommendations, when implemented, should substantially reduce the weight and improve the overall health of a population with SMI, according to NASMHPD. ‘This report can be viewed as a rallying call for more prevention and intervention strategies for people with SMI struggling with obesity issues,’ said Robert W. Glover, Ph.D., NASMHPD executive director. The report also notes that some medications can cause weight gain for people with SMI, and notes that medications that are more weight neutral should be considered by physicians. "Medical interventions are needed to address issues with medications that can cause obesity and that includes behavior and counseling treatments, medications for weight loss, and surgery," said Joseph Parks, M.D., chair of the NASMHPD Medical Directors Council and medical director for the Missouri Department of Mental Health. The report, Obesity & Prevention Strategies for Individuals with Serious Mental Illness, represents the 15th in a series of technical reports. Two years ago, NASMHPD released its report, Morbidity and Mortality in People with Serious Mental Illness, which found that people with SMI die 25 years sooner than the general population. In its new report, NASMHPD has issued a series of recommendations at the national, state and local levels. Recommendations include the implementation of national obesity surveillance/monitoring system for persons with SMI and the promotion of opportunities for healthcare providers, including peer specialists, to teach health lifestyles to families, individuals and older adults.”

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