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How common is chronic disease?

Dr Ross Walker
25 July 2014

by Ross Walker

A recent report from the Centre for Disease Control in the United States published in the Lancet has suggested that one in two US adults suffer some form of chronic disease. And, surprise, surprise, the report goes on to suggest that the bulk of these conditions could be prevented by the affected individual taking more responsibility for their health by better control of the following factors - stopping cigarettes, eating better, increase in exercise, reducing alcohol consumption and attending their doctors for better control of blood pressure and cholesterol. 

I saw a patient the other day who spends a considerable amount of time and money purchasing a variety of books on health and also spending hundreds of dollars per month on vitamin supplements.  He also travels to North America seeing a variety of supposed health gurus but strangely does not find the time in his otherwise very busy life to exercise or eat correctly.  He has already had coronary stents and remains overweight.  

The report I read from the Centre for Disease Control made the following suggestions which include:

  1. Epidemiology (the study of populations) and surveillance to monitor trends and track progress.
  2. Policies and environments that promote health and support healthy behaviours.
  3. Health care that effectively delivers prevention services.
  4. Stronger links between health care and community services.

These suggestions are all well and good but modern medicine is a disease care system, not health care. Doctors are awarded for treating disease not for keeping their patients healthy.  The only way anything will change is when we shift the responsibility of health back to the individual and continue the trend towards individual healthy behaviours and increasing the social stigma for unhealthy behaviours (as, for example, we have seen towards smoking over the past few decades).  

Governments and major health bodies can assess and legislate as much as they like but until each person starts to understand the vital features and keys to wellness, rather than the current inexorable trend towards disease, we will continue to see at least 50% of the population suffering from some form of chronic affliction. 

 

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