Aging Agenda for
Houston-Harris County
"Moving Toward an Elder Friendly Future"

Health and Well-Being

Domain Lead: Janice Paul

For more information contact:

Janice Paul, PhD
Houston Department of Health and Human Services
713-794-2965 (phone)




© 2009 HCAAA

Ensure accessible and integrated medical and mental health services that improve the quality of life for seniors.

Health and well-being, especially with the prospect of extended longevity, is the desire of seniors, families, and the extended community. What “health and well being” means and how it is to be achieved are questions that perhaps must be answered individually but also have to be considered by the community. Houston’s consortium of senior-centered organizations, Care for Elders, recognizes seven characteristics of a community consciously seeking the physical and mental well-being of its seniors: (1) opportunities for seniors to participate in physical activities; (2) vaccination programs to protect against influenza and pneumonia;(3) cancer screening programs; (4) programs that educate seniors about achieving good health, maintaining it, and dealing with disease; (5) accessible health care; (6) screening and care for mental health problems; and (7) programs that support caregivers and their education (Report Card Work Group, Care for Elders, 2007).

A concern that may adversely impact health and well-being is the increasing number of physicians not accepting Medicare, the primary form of health insurance for people 65 and over. A 2008 Texas Medical Association survey found: (1) nearly 33 percent of Texas physicians overall and 45 percent of internists and family medicine specialists report accepting fewer Medicare patients in the last three years, (2) more than 45 percent of Texas physicians report considering not allowing any new Medicare patients into their practices; and (3) only 4 percent of Texas physicians report accepting more patients on Medicare than previously (Texas Medical Association, 2008). While the Harris County Hospital District provides direct care to a small percentage of the county’s 65-and-over population, most Houston–Harris County elders seek care from private physicians and other practitioners; however, a quarter of Houston seniors reported in a survey that they hadn’t seen a physician in the last three years. This is a time in life when annual physical examinations are recommended and when early detection of serious disease can mean the difference between successful treatment and death. As physicians limit the number of Medicare patients they see, the more vulnerable seniors become to disease and diminished health and well-being.