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April 2, 2003 -- No. 203

Palmer is co-editor of influential report on UI; can speak to treatment, prevalence

An estimated 20 million Americans are affected by urinary incontinence, or varying degrees of lack of bladder control, making the condition one of the largest public health concerns in the United States.

Nearly $5.2 billion is spent annually on supplies and services to treat the condition, yet health-care professionals acknowledge challenges in detection and treatment because of the embarrassment it causes sufferers.

A recent national report, co-edited by a UNC School of Nursing professor, says that nurses will have to take ownership of their patientsí health in this area if urinary incontinence is to be more effectively detected and treated.

Dr. Mary H. Palmer, Umphlet distinguished professor in aging at UNC, co-edited "State of the Science on Urinary Incontinence," a supplement to the March issue of the American Journal of Nursing, and is available to discuss any issues related to detection and treatment of urinary incontinence.

"My colleagues and I agree that education and primary prevention, or preventing the condition before it becomes a problem, are the keys to better detecting and treating this condition," said Palmer. "Nurses, as the health-care workers patients have most contact with, must assume control of their patientsí bladder health and learn to ask the right questions, better detect the signs and offer expanded advice on their patientsí options for prevention and treatment."

The report features findings of an invitational symposium made up of many nationally recognized experts in urinary incontinence treatment and research.

Recommendations reported in the American Journal of Nursing supplement include improving public awareness and education; advocating for more education for nurses on the condition; improving clinical care guidelines and practices; increasing reimbursement for education, evaluation, management and behavioral interventions; and increasing research that compares various interventions, involves minorities and men, and can be implemented in clinical practice.

Palmer has spent the majority of her career researching health issues related to incontinence. Her study on the changes in continence status of nursing home residents during their first year of admission was the first of its kind and has served as a model in similar studies.

An electronic, full-text version of the supplement is available at www.NursingCenter.com/ui, the official Web site of the American Journal of Nursing. Palmer may be reached at mhpalmer@email.unc.edu or (919) 966-7204.

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School of Nursing contact: Sunny Smith Nelson, (919) 966-1412
News Services contact: Deb Saine, (919) 962-8415