Jan 17, 2010
It is hard to meet anyone nowadays who does not know someone who suffers from chronic illness of some type. According to a study performed by Johns Hopkins University, nearly 50% of Americans has a chronic medical condition, chronic illnesses cause 70% of deaths in the United States and generate 75% of the total health care costs in the United States annually.1 90% of seniors have at least one chronic disease and 77% have at least two.2 Our antiquated healthcare system is struggling to deal with these facts, yet things only seem to be going from bad to worse. Patients are unhappy. Doctors are unhappy. Our approach doesn’t seem to be solving the problem and some argue that it may even be worsening it. Nobody is winning.
So where do we go from here? Taking the same approach to the problem and expecting a different outcome is not an option. Modifying the payment system (aka the current healthcare reform efforts) may help to temporarily alleviate the symptoms of our ailing system, but it obviously won’t address the cause. How can we dig deeper as individuals, as a nation, to reverse the disturbing trends surrounding chronic healthcare? I suggest that we look further back in the chain of cause.
The CDC notes that “Chronic diseases – such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and arthritis – are among the most common, costly, and preventable of all health problems in the U.S.”3 Common, costly and preventable! The CDC goes on to state that “Four modifiable health risk behaviors-lack of physical activity, poor nutrition, tobacco use, and excessive alcohol consumption-are responsible for much of the illness, suffering, and early death related to chronic diseases.”4 I wonder if we might be so bold as to consider a new approach to primary healthcare, one that emphasizes prevention (before) over intervention (after).
Where do we start? I have some ideas, but I’d love to hear from you. As with so many challenging situations, the tools and resources are available and at hand. Intelligent and courageous practitioners, brilliant educators, eager patients, incredible scientific advances, a rich and deep legacy of healing traditions and the list goes on! But how can we put the pieces together – in a different order – so that the parts once again relate to the harmonious and healthy working of the whole?
by Gregg Hake | CEO, Energetix
- Chronic Care in America: A 21st Century Challenge, a study of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation & Partnership for Solutions: Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (September 2004 Update). “Chronic Conditions: Making the Case for Ongoing Care” [↩]
- The Growing Burden of Chronic Disease in American, Public Health Reports / May-June 2004 / Volume 119, Gerard Anderson, PhD [↩]
- http://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/overview/index.htm [↩]
- Ibid. [↩]