IOM: Chronic conditions a public health 'crisis'

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Despite existing national initiatives to help patients with chronic illnesses, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) indicated in a report yesterday the industry still isn't doing enough for patients in what it calls a matter of public health.

IOM didn't recommend specific illnesses to target but did identify nine "exemplar" conditions that significantly affect the nation's health and economy: arthritis, cancer, chronic pain, dementia, depression, type 2 diabetes, post-traumatic disabling conditions, schizophrenia, and vision and hearing loss.

The costs of people with chronic illnesses such as these represent 75 percent of the $2 trillion in U.S. annual healthcare spending, according to the report.

Chronic conditions are reaching a boiling point, the IOM suggested. Calling it an "epidemic," IOM said 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, policy makers, and public health programs and agencies," the report summary states. "Moreover, the aging of the population will only increase coming challenges."

Although a range of public policies have helped individuals with chronic illness already, it's important to design and implement new public policies that further promote living well with chronic illnesses, according to the report. In recent decades, the focus has not only been for patients to live longer but also live well.

The IOM committee pushed evidence-based interventions in community disease prevention, such as ending smoking, eating nutritious food and limiting weight gain, recommending that federal and state governments monitor progress through comprehensive surveillance. The IOM also recommended the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services support states in developing population strategies, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention selecting a variety of illnesses that merit public health action, paying attention not to duplicate existing efforts.

For more information:
- read the IOM report brief
- check out the IOM report (.pdf)

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