The National Association of Chronic Disease Directors and the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease Stand by the Evidence: Wellness Works

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The National Association of Chronic Disease Directors joined with the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD) in celebrating the PFCD's first anniversary. The PFCD took this opportunity to reiterate that prevention, in particular primary prevention or wellness activities related to lifestyle changes, can save money and lives -- and that given the state of the health care system and the economy, the U.S. cannot afford to ignore this issue any longer.

The National Association of Chronic Disease Directors joined with the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD) in celebrating the PFCD's first anniversary. The PFCD took this opportunity to reiterate that prevention, in particular primary prevention or wellness activities related to lifestyle changes, can save money and lives -- and that given the state of the health care system and the economy, the U.S. cannot afford to ignore this issue any longer.

"When we talk about health care reform in this country and how to make health care more affordable, we must focus on the number one driver of costs - preventable and poorly managed chronic diseases," said PFCD Executive Director, Ken Thorpe, Ph.D., Chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University.

"The vast majority of spending in our system is rooted in treating these diseases, many of which are caused by poor health behaviors," he said. "Until we put in place public and private policies that do a better job of helping Americans get and stay healthy, we will continue to see our health costs rise -- and this will have serious repercussions for our economy."

During the briefing, Dr. Thorpe addressed questions about the value of prevention, pointing to evidence of its promise. He noted that "prevention" is a catch-all term applied to everything from lifestyle-oriented changes, such as proper diet and exercise, to preventive care, such as screenings, to activities related to managing illnesses or conditions that are already present, such as taking medications as prescribed.

While not all activities result in cost-savings in the health care system today, Dr. Thorpe noted a number focused on improving wellness have been shown to lead to savings down the road. Additionally, wellness-oriented activities can offer value to the greater economy by enhancing productivity, not to mention the intrinsic value patients and their families derive from avoiding or mitigating illness.

"Making changes now can significantly lessen the human and economic impact of chronic diseases, and can improve the broader picture of health and productivity for years to come," said Dr. Thorpe.

In particular, he noted that an emphasis on adopting healthy lifestyles -- by reducing obesity and curbing smoking, for example -- can lead to some of the greatest health and economic benefits. According to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 80 percent of cases of heart disease or stroke, 80 percent of cases of diabetes and about 40 percent of cases of cancer could be prevented if Americans stopped smoking, exercised regularly and ate a balanced diet.

The CDC statistic Dr. Thorpe cited is one of the many contained in the "Almanac of Chronic Disease" -- a new PFCD resource released at the briefing which provides a comprehensive overview of the tremendous burden chronic illnesses impose on health and health care in the U.S. Dr. Thorpe, and partner representatives who spoke at the briefing and whose organizations sponsored the development of the Almanac, referred to the resource during their remarks to expound on the crisis.

The Almanac reveals that, in the U.S. today, chronic diseases:

  •     Affect more than 130 million Americans directly;
  •     Account for 7 in 10 deaths;
  •     Account for more than 75 cents of every dollar spent on health care, and nearly two-thirds of the growth in health care spending over the past 20 years; and,
  •     Cost the U.S. economy $1 trillion a year in lost productivity.

Representatives from PFCD partner organizations which sponsored the Almanac and joined Dr. Thorpe at the briefing included:

  •     Pat Ford-Roegner, MSW, RN, FAAN, CEO of the American Academy of Nursing;
  •     Mike Barry, Executive Director of the American College of Preventive Medicine;
  •     Tracey Moorhead, President & CEO of DMAA: The Care Continuum Alliance;
  •     Cynthia Wainscott, member and former Chair of the Board of Directors of Mental Health America; and,
  •     Audrey Haynes, Senior Vice President and Chief Government Affairs Officer of the YMCA of the USA.

Other sponsors include Canyon Ranch Institute, of which PFCD's Chairperson, Richard Carmona, M.D., M.P.H, F.A.C.S., 17th Surgeon General of the United States (2002-2006), is President, and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

David Hoffman, NACDD Policy Committee Chair, said "It is through groups like PFCD and the many public health professionals around the country that we will begin to realize the possibilities in prevention and control of the epidemic of chronic disease that threatens our physical and economic health as a nation."

As health care and the economy continue to be top-of-mind in the 2008 election, PFCD plans to continue to raise awareness of the connection of these issues to the nation's chronic disease crisis, and to promote solutions that will work for all Americans.

"Given this group's size and stature, we hope to play a key role in advancing 'consensus' solutions in health reform in 2008 and beyond," said Thorpe. "We have made great strides in our first year, but we know there is much more to be done."

The Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease is a national coalition of more than 100 patient, provider, community organizations, business and labor groups, and health policy experts committed to raising awareness of the number one cause of death, disability, and rising health care costs in the U.S.: chronic disease.

About NACDD
The National Association of Chronic Disease Directors is a national public health association, founded in 1988, to link the chronic disease program directors of each state and U.S. territory to provide a national forum for chronic disease prevention and control efforts. NACDD provides state-based leadership and expertise for chronic disease prevention and control at the state and national level. Further information about NACDD is available at http://www.chronicdisease.org.

Note: To access a copy of the "Almanac of Chronic Disease" online, please visit: http://www.fightchronicdisease.org

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WENDY ALPINE
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