IOM issues call to action on chronic illness


A report released last week by the Institute of Medicine said chronic illness represents 75 percent of the $2 trillion in annual U.S. healthcare spending and is steadily moving toward crisis proportions.

In its report, “Living Well with Chronic Illness: A Call for Public Health Action,” the IOM stated that enhancing life for individuals living with chronic illness should be the goal of the healthcare community.

The Centers for Disease Control and the nonprofit Arthritis Foundation asked the IOM to help identify ways to reduce disability and improve the function and quality of life for people living with chronic illness.

The report incudes a framework for developing and implementing strategies that reduce the burdens of chronic illness by helping people with chronic illnesses live well. The IOM makes recommendations to the CDC as well as the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) on the development and support of programs to meet the health and social needs of people living with chronic illnesses.

Key recommendations in the report:

  • HHS should support states in developing comprehensive, population-based strategic plans with specific goals, objectives, actions, timeframes and resources that focus on managing chronic illness among residents, including community-based efforts to address the health and social needs of people living with chronic illness and experiencing disparities in health outcomes.
  • Federal and state governments should expand surveillance and mitigation programs to the widest possible range of chronic illnesses. Having better data will inform planning, development, implementation and evaluation of public health policies, programs and community-based interventions for individuals living with chronic illness.
  • Surveillance techniques that are likely to capture multiple chronic conditions effectively should be employed. As one example, the CDC should conduct longitudinal evaluations – which can shed light on hidden relationships – to identify and quantify the effects of various risk factors that could predict how a given illness will progress over time and how having a single chronic disease increases the odds of suffering from additional ailments.
  • The CDC should support expanded use of new and emerging economic methods, such as cost-effectiveness techniques, in making policy decisions that promote living well with chronic illness. In terms of policy priorities, the committee suggests that HHS and the CDC pilot test a “Health in All Policies” approach on a set of major federal legislation, regulations, and policies and evaluate the framework’s ability to improve quality of life and physical function for people living with chronic illness.

“The epidemic of chronic illness is steadily moving toward crisis proportions, yet maintaining or enhancing quality of life for individuals living with chronic illnesses has not been given the attention it deserves by healthcare funders, health systems, policy makers and public health programs and agencies,” noted the report. “Moreover, the aging population will only increase coming challenges.”

Follow Rene Letourneau on Twitter @ReneLetourneau.

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