Chronic Disease: How Do We Tackle One of Our Biggest Public Health Challenges?

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By Amanda Li, Junior Policy Associate

Our nation spends over 75% of its total healthcare dollars on treating people with chronic illnesses. Yet despite all of this spending, chronic diseases are still responsible for seven out of ten deaths in America every year. In New York, Over 40% of adults suffer from a chronic condition like cancer, diabetes, arthritis, asthma, heart disease, or stroke.

With the huge toll that chronic illness has on morbidity, mortality, and healthcare costs, it is clear that something must be done to address the issue. Unfortunately, we cannot take a “one-size fits-all” approach to chronic disease: it affects different groups at different rates and in different ways. Factors like race, ethnicity, and socio-economic status can result in greater exposure to conditions that contribute to chronic disease. For instance:

  • Obesity has significantly greater prevalence among the African American and Latino populations than among the White population.
  • People living under the federal poverty level or who did not graduate from high school have a greater tendency to smoke cigarettes than people of higher income.
  • Hypertension is not as well-controlled and has greater prevalence among the African American and Latino populations in comparison to White populations.
  • African Americans suffer from higher rates of death from stroke and heart disease than Whites.
  • Diabetes has a significantly greater prevalence among the American Indian and Alaska Native populations than the White population.
  • Poor, low-income, middle-income women are not as likely to receive mammogram screenings as high-income women.

To better understand the health disparities associated with chronic diseases, The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) will implement The Transdisciplinary Collaborative Centers  (TCC) for Health Disparities Research on Chronic Disease Prevention program. This program aims to develop more robust approaches towards addressing the issues of chronic conditions among minority and socially disadvantaged groups. Research efforts will be directed towards the development, implementation, and distribution of chronic disease reduction interventions that are community-based and multilevel, taking into consideration the complicated interactions between people and their daily environments.

The aims of TCC aligns well with the New York State Department of Health’s (NYSDOH’s) Prevention Agenda goal of “Reducing Chronic Disease by promoting evidence-based interventions in your county.The Advancing Prevention Project (APP) acknowledges that socially disadvantaged populations (such as communities of color, low-income neighborhoods, and individuals with disabilities) are disparately affected by chronic disease. In support of the NYSDOH’s Prevention Agenda, APP recommends that we promote the use of evidence-based interventions to these specific populations that are disparately impacted by chronic conditions.

APP is excited for these TCC studies to advance our understanding of how to tackle the problem of chronic disease, especially amongst socially disadvantaged populations.

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