Saturday, December 27, 2008

Chronic Disease and Optimism for the Future

A recent press conference sponsored by the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD) revealed a startling statistic: chronic disease costs the American taxpayer more than two Wall Street bailouts per year. (To listen to the press conference or download a transcript, click here.)

According to PFCD, 45% of Americans live with a chronic illness; poorly controlled asthma sends 5,000 people to the ER every day; and obesity rates of American teenagers has tripled in the last 20 years.

Perusing the PFCD website, it's obvious that there is a great deal of optimism being verbalized vis-a-vis the opportunity that Barack Obama and his administration have in terms of addressing chronic illness and health care reform. Improvement in the management of chronic illness is seen as a clearly bipartisan issue by many in the know, and a number of members of Congress are apparently already preparing policies vis-a-vis these issues in advance of Mr. Obama's inauguration and first 100 days of governance.

In terms of technological advances, there are many policy-makers and consumers who are calling for a national Electronic Medical Record (EMR) that will streamline information, track prescription drug use and medical visits, as well as allow more continuity of care. This type of system would also allow for easy access to immunization records, would simplify facility-to-facility patient transfers, and facilitate care of patients who have moved or who need health care while traveling. Furthermore, chronic disease care could also be greatly enhanced by such centralized record-keeping, providing crucial financial and medical data about the overall state of American health---and its medical management. While pundits (justifiably) worry that a government-run EMR could raise Orwellian privacy concerns, perhaps some type of third-party oversight could assuage such fears as the project moves ahead.

Obviously, something needs to be done to address the state of disarray in which we find health care in America. We are less healthy, more obese, taking more chronic medications, and experiencing greater levels of stress than ever before. Sadly, 40 million of us are still uninsured (a pathetic statistic which I am apt to belabor ad nauseum here on Digital Doorway), and the percentage of us suffering from chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease is currently rising.

As 2009 beckons, the Obama-Biden transition team is revving its engines and preparing for an all-out attack on the American economy, including the economics of health care. In my virtual peregrinations, I am seeing that a great deal of optimism is being expressed vis-a-vis the future of health care and chronic illness management in the United States. As the economy inevitably rises from the ashes and financial stability returns to the markets, many feel that the health care
infrastructure will also revive itself with government-funded resources aimed at curbing chronic illness and improving public health. As a newly-minted Public Health Nurse, I am quietly joining that chorus of optimism, and will do my best (from my lowly municipal position) to support those valuable and forward-thinking efforts.
Post a Comment