Chronic disease is a chronic global dilemma

September 27, 2006

Chronic disease is a growing global problem that doesn't get the attention it deserves in the health care industry, said Alvin B. Lin, MD, Clinical Assistant Professor of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and Kay M. Nelsen, MD, Assistant Professor of Family and Community Medicine at the University of California, Davis.

Chronic disease is a growing global problem that doesn't get the attention it deserves in the health care industry, said Alvin B. Lin, MD, Clinical Assistant Professor of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and Kay M. Nelsen, MD, Assistant Professor of Family and Community Medicine at the University of California, Davis.

About 35 million people died in 2005 from chronic-and common-ailments including heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes. Eighty percent of these potentially preventable fatalities occurred in low- and middle-income nations.

Nongovernmental organizations have done little to advance the treatment of chronic disease, Dr Nelsen said. She called the World Bank's efforts "pathetic" and implied the United Nations was in a similar category. Organizations like these tend to focus on infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS or malaria instead of chronic diseases that affect more people across more social and economic strata.

The solution to this international problem begins at home. Consider patients as students to be graded from a low pass, or D-, to a high pass, or A+, they counseled. Don't let patients' health slide by on a low pass. Optimize their care and help them become A+ students.

Better observation of patients' health status could help prevent obesity or cardiovascular disease, and patient-oriented care would encourage them to schedule more physician visits when their illnesses are more treatable.