Today, the National Council On Aging issued a call-to-action for national chronic care reform, based on the results a new survey of Americans with chronic conditions.
The survey included over 1,000 Americans 44 and older who have chronic illnesses, such as hypertension, arthritis, and diabetes. Results revealed, in a nut shell, that two thirds percent have two or more chronic conditions and one in five has four or more chronic conditions.
Sadly, these are the people who probably most need to see a doctor and/or take prescriptions, yet a quarter of them delayed their health care or haven't filled their prescriptions, despite the fact they often live in pain.
Other startling stats:
> 57percent have not been asked by their health care providers if they need help to manage their problems;
> 45 percent say they rarely or never receive referrals to resources (such as classes, counselors, educators, etc.;
> 38 percent say they don't have the money to improve their health. The numbers are much higher among Latinos and African Americans.
As a result of the study, NCOA is recommending three focus areas:
- Policy: The federal government needs to make investments in community-based programs, and in primary care and hospital settings to ensure team-based, coordinated care across all settings.
- Practice: Health care professionals have a responsibility to connect their patients to effective community self-care programs, as well as improve the quality and coordination of care to people with chronic conditions.
- Personal Skills: Americans with chronic conditions need to develop the skills and confidence to manage their health and to advocate for the help and support they need.
I hope the NCOA's study and recommendations will result in better community programs, but I also think an opportunity exists here for more pharmaceutical companies and disease-specific non-profits to do a better job of providing resources for patients in the form of informational web sites, forums and even community-based events, such as the free screenings and patient financial grants offered by the American Kidney Fund (an Edelman client).
One of my clients, the National Arthritis Foundation, does a good job offering local health programs that are evidence-based (another recommendation of NCOA). Recently, the Foundation even launched a new web site, www.LetsMoveTogether.org as a resource on how to move for better health. The emphasis isn't on arthritis; rather, it's on movement, which evidence shows helps to prevent and treat arthritis. The site also offers a free online Movement Tracker that lets you track how you make an effort to move on a regular basis. (Check it out - it's very cool. You can use the widget to challenge your friends to keep up with you, and you can print out your progress and share it with your doctor).
I'm increasingly seeing pharma companies step up to the plate to offer resources as well. They understand what Edelman's Health Engagement Barometer recently revealed: government can fix the health care problems alone, nor can business. But together, they at least have a shot at it.
If you're a Boomer caring for an elderly parent, check out the NCOA site for suggestions on how to help them, especially if they have chronic conditions and a limited income. What other ideas might you have that you can share with readers here?