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Chronic Disease Pandemic

Chronic Disease Pandemic | Is It Really A Pandemic?

Before we explore how to solve the Chronic Disease Pandemic we really need to get our definitions and facts straight:

What are Chronic Diseases?

Based on the CDC chronic or non-communicable diseases are “defined broadly as conditions that last 1 year or more and require ongoing medical attention or limit activities of daily living or both. Chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States. They are also leading drivers of the nation’s $3.8 trillion in annual health care costs.” [2]

The majority of chronic diseases are linked to lifestyle choices and may include

  • poor diet,
  • sedentary lifestyle with a lack of physical exercise,
  • chronic psychosocial stress;
  • unhealthy sleep habits,
  • lack of social connections
  • use of toxic substances

What’s a Pandemic?

According to Merriam-Webster a pandemic is “an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area (such as multiple countries or continents) and typically affects a significant proportion of the population“.

With over 40% of the world’s population suffering from one or more chronic conditions it seems obvious to use a descriptive terminology that reflect the severity of the problem to be solved. [1]

Is this really a Chronic Disease Pandemic?

Absolutely yes. Let us look at the statistics [3]:

  • 1+ Billion people worldwide suffer from Non-Communicable Diseases
  • 4 in 10 U.S. adults have two or more chronic symptoms
  • 90% of healthcare costs goes towards managing lifestyle related diseases
  • 67+% hospitalized COVID patients had chronic conditions

Chronic Disease in the United States - Joe & Emmy Liu Foundationimage source: cdc.org

A recent study suggests that the world might be approaching a turning point in life expectancy gains. The promise of disease prevention through government actions or incentives that enable healthier behaviors and access to health-care resources is not being realized around the world.

Most of these risk factors are preventable and treatable, and tackling them will bring huge social and economic benefits. We are failing to change unhealthy behaviors, particularly those related to diet quality, caloric intake, and physical activity, in part due to inadequate policy attention and funding for public health and behavioral research”, says Professor Christopher Murray, Director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, USA [4].

What is Lifestyle Medicine?

Lifestyle Medicine is the use of evidence-based lifestyle therapeutic intervention—including a whole-food, plant-predominant eating pattern, regular physical activity, restorative sleep, stress management, avoidance of risky substances, and positive social connection—as a primary modality, delivered by clinicians trained and certified in this specialty, to prevent, treat, and often reverse chronic disease. [5]

With more than 85% of health care costs attributable to chronic health conditions, an emphasis on treating the underlying causes of these conditions is imperative. Lifestyle medicine offers treatments that can reverse a wide range of chronic health conditions at minimal cost and without negative side effects.[6]

“Lifestyle as medicine has the potential to prevent up to 80% of chronic disease; no other medicine can match that. In addition, it is potentially inexpensive and even cost-saving; free of all but good side effects; safe and appropriate for children and octogenarians alike. It is, quite simply, the best medicine we’ve got.”
David Katz, MD, MPH, FACPM, FACP
President, American College of Lifestyle Medicine
Founding Director, Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center

Is Lifestyle Medicine the Solution?

There are many solutions. Healthcare and lifestyle related diseases are extremely complex with multi-factorial causes. Typically if we talk about changing (or evolving) healthcare we think high-tech solutions, spending more money or streamlining services, insurance, medications, technologies or reimbursement.

These are all great but often “doable and easy to integrate strategies” are more effective. We believe there are ONLY 2 STEPS required that will radically improve healthcare, help millions of people live healthier and longer and save billions in healthcare costs.

1. Prescribing Lifestyle Medicine

Physicians and health professionals can help patients and build a sustainable practice addressing the true root-causes of chronic disease by prescribing Lifestyle Medicine.[6]

In practice patients would have a choice which is to either select “disease management” with a focus on prescribing medication or choose “Lifestyle Medicine & Prevention” with a focus on establishing new health habits.

2. Reimbursing Lifestyle Medicine and Health Coaching

Although one might expect Lifestyle Medicine is widespread among health care professionals, it is far from common in everyday practice. A significant contributing factor is the lack of financial incentives for health care providers who practice lifestyle medicine. Current practitioners generally do not receive remuneration consistent with the cost savings resulting from reversing chronic health conditions using lifestyle medicine.[6]

Lifestyle Medicine and Health Coaching need to be reimbursed by insurance companies.

Period!

The time to wait and hope things get better is over.

We need to act now.

Here are 2 ways to get you started now:

  1. Attend the Lifestyle Medicine Summit Oct. 27-31, 2021 expert talks & workshops.
  2. Next time you visit your healthcare provider ask: “Do You Offer Lifestyle Medicine?

 


[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7359916/
[2] https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/about/index.htm
[3] https://www.cdc.gov/globalhealth/healthprotection/ncd/index.html
[4] http://www.healthdata.org/news-release/lancet-latest-global-disease-estimates-reveal-perfect-storm-rising-chronic-diseases-and
[5] https://www.lifestyleprescriptions.tv/phd/why-lifestyle-medicine/
[6] https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1559827618795410
[7] https://www.lifestyleprescriptions.tv/phd/prescribing-lifestyle-medicine/