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Successful physical training project for older people at MedUni Vienna

Largest European Public Health Conference in the Austria Center Vienna – 30 projects from MedUni Vienna are being presented
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(Vienna, 9 November 2016) According to recent studies, around 11% of people aged over 65 are "frail", and 41% are on their way to becoming so. "Frailty" is a geriatric syndrome consisting of a combination of low muscle mass and/or muscle strength, under-nourishment, over-nourishment or malnourishment and chronic inflammation and is associated with huge health problems for those affected. A physical training programme created by MedUni Vienna to reactivate this group achieved notable success – and, together with other successful MedUni Vienna projects, has now been presented to the largest European Public Health Conference (EPH/"All for Health, Health for All") in the Austria Center Vienna.

"It has been found that the physical condition of patients benefits from physical training and discussion about nutrition delivered by lay volunteers in the patients' homes. The social aspect is particularly important," says Thomas E. Dorner of the Institute of Social Medicine at MedUni Vienna, summing up the findings. This week, Dorner is also presiding over the conference.

Since a lot of frail people live on their own and hardly ever go out, nutrition and exercise programmes based on social support are a good way of preventing or reducing frailty. MedUni Vienna (Institute of Social Medicine) therefore joined with the Vienna Hilfswerk [voluntary organisation] and the Austrian Sports Association to set up the "Gesund fürs Leben" (Healthy for life) project. The project was funded by the Vienna Science and Technology Fund. The setting: trained volunteers visit frail and malnourished people (average age 83) twice a week in their homes and perform physical exercises with them (strength training using a Thera band) and talk about aspects of nutrition.

The outcome: there was found to be a significant improvement in the recipients' frailty status and risk of malnutrition. Dorner: "The prevalence of poor nutritional status fell by 25% in the exercise and nutrition group and their level of frailty fell by 17%. This shows that healthy nutrition and physical activity, especially among older people, is particularly important in promoting health and well-being and maintaining independence."

30 MedUni Vienna projects presented
A total of 30 successful Public Health projects conducted at the Medical University are being presented at the international conference in the Austria Centre Vienna. These include "stopping smoking and quality of life", for example for HIV patients; "oncology rehabilitation in Austria"; studies into the prevalence of risk-taking behaviour among SUV drivers on the roads; gender-specific self-management of diabetes; exercise recommendations for people aged over 50; and even the analysis of different risk factors for suicide and a survey of people who have availed themselves of a recuperative spa break or the development of exercise monitoring for Austria.

Public Health – a central theme at MedUni Vienna
"We have built up a large Center for Public Health at MedUni Vienna – with very successful interdisciplinary research topics and many strong international collaborations. Public Health is also a central topic on the teaching curriculum, starting in the 1st year of medical studies and including several weeks of small group sessions and lectures in the 4th year of study and even the option to complete part of the clinical internship year at the Center for Public Health. Furthermore, for more than 10 years now MedUni Vienna has offered a specific university course entitled Master of Public Health in Prevention and Health Promotion and a doctoral programme. We can be pleased with these developments and our clear presence at internationally renowned conferences, such as this one, reflects the importance of MedUni Vienna as a location of standing," says Anita Rieder, Vice Rector for Education at the Medical University of Vienna.

9th European Public Health Conference 2016 in Vienna (EPH)
"All for Health, Health for All". 9-12 November 2016, Austria Center Vienna. For more information:
The 19th Scientific Meeting of the Austrian Society for Public Health (ÖGPH) entitled "Integrated Health – Integrated Care" is taking place at the same time (9/10 November).