UW News

May 15, 2008

Experts to address depression in older adults May 19 & 20

The rapidly growing number of older adults in the United States has far-reaching implications for efforts designed to promote and preserve their mental and physical health. Depression is a health issue for many older Americans, yet many older people do not receive appropriate screening for accurate diagnosis or adequate treatment of depression.

A symposium, titled Effective Programs to Treat Depression in Older Adults: Implementation Strategies for Community Agencies, will be held on May 19 and 20 at The Carter Center in Atlanta to address this gap in mental health care. Attendees will include public health, aging and mental health service providers, as well as administrators, funders and policy makers.

“This conference will introduce attendees to depression care management programs in which there is strong evidence to show their effectiveness in seniors,” said conference chair Basia Belza, the Aljoya Endowed Professor in Aging in the School of Nursing. “Attendees will learn about how best to implement these programs in their communities.”

Conference speakers will discuss the critical role that community-based agencies can play in screening older adults at high risk for depression and in initiating programs and protocols shown to be effective in treating depression.

Dr. Mark Snowden, UW associate professor of psychiatry, will be one of the speakers. He recently acknowledged that “in the scientific community, we have published numerous peer-reviewed journal articles documenting evidence in support of community-based depression screening and treatment for older adults. However, to date, there has been little opportunity for professionals in community agencies to learn firsthand about such evidence and about effective screening instruments and strategies for treating depression in older people.

“This conference brings together experts in research, clinical practice, and program development and implementation at the community level for an extended dialogue focused exclusively on depression,” Snowden noted. “The underlying assumption is that no one group’s perspective is sufficient but rather, all the groups have important perspectives and expertise to share that will ultimately lead to the implementation of more effective depression screening and treatment programs for older adults in our communities.”

The symposium is sponsored by the UW School of Public Health and Community Medicine, Healthy Aging Research Network of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in partnership with the Rosalynn Carter Georgia Mental Health Forum.

“Depression is one of the most prevalent health conditions in the United States,” said former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, co-founder of The Carter Center. “Failure to screen and treat this disease in older adults tragically diminishes the lives of thousands each year. It is critical that we implement best practices to address this gap in our health care system and give our ever-increasing population of older Americans the opportunity to thrive.”

For more information, visit the conference Web site at http://prc-hanconferences.com.