Chronic Illnesses Need More Attention, Report Says

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More action from federal, state and local governments is needed to address the increasing burden of chronic illness in the United States, according to a new report.

The report, compiled by an Institute of Medicine committee, makes recommendations on how to improve the lives of people with long-term and sometimes disabling conditions, such as dementia and chronic pain, a problem the committee says will only get worse as the population ages.

The recommendations include a call to gather more information about people with multiple chronic conditions, such as those who have both Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, to better understand how to manage these patients. Today, more than one in four Americans live with multiple chronic conditions, the report says.

"The epidemic of chronic illness is steadily moving toward crisis proportions, yet maintaining or enhancing quality of life for individuals living with chronic illnesses has not been given the attention it deserves by health care funders, health systems, policymakers, and public health programs and agencies," the authors of the report wrote.

Nearly 48 million Americans report having a disability due to chronic illness, and 75 percent of health care costs are spent on medical care for people with these conditions.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) should select a variety of diseases that merit special public health action, the report said. The illnesses selected should be ones for which prevention programs would be most effective.

When gathering data on chronic diseases, the CDC should examine which diseases occur together, the order in which the conditions tend to appear and the impact the co-occurring diseases have.

The CDC should also study people over time to look at "risk factors that could predict how a given illness will progress over time and how having a single chronic disease increases the odds of suffering from additional ailments," the report says.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services should support states in developing plans to manage chronic disease among its residence, including community-based efforts to help chronic disease suffers, such as cognitive training programs and better access to mobility aids.

The report was complied upon request of the CDC and the Arthritis Foundation.

Pass it on: Many people live with chronic illnesses, but these diseases have not received the attention they deserve from public health action plans.

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Live Science Staff
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