For the first time in human history chronic disease is the leading cause of medical need, responsible for 71% of all deaths globally according to 2013 WHO statistics. Cardiovascular diseases are now the number one categorical cause of death worldwide. And this is only the tip of the iceberg of a burgeoning health trend that is dominating both individuals and businesses. As the Harvard Business Review has suggested "we have largely ignored one of the most important fixes to our health care system" "every dollar we invest in our workers’ health, we see a return of more than $4 in reduced health care costs, lower absenteeism, and improved productivity" HBR Article
Research over the past decade suggests that conditions like heart disease, joint disorders and digestive disorders are near the top the list of U.S. healthcare costs at $107 billion, $62 billion and $51 billion respectively. If we dig into how chronic diseases affect our daily lives, we see issues such as migraines, which influence the daily lives of approximately 17% of the population at a cost of care and lost productivity estimated as high as $17 billion per year. It is estimated that almost 10% of the U.S. population has diabetes with an estimated $62 billion in healthcare costs and $69 billion in lost productivity. One in three Americans are said to have at least one of the top 7 chronic diseases, with a current overall economic impact of $1.3 trillion -- of which $1.1 trillion is lost workplace productivity.
The significant challenge we face in healthcare is that the current healthcare system was developed during a time where the leading medical need was from communicable diseases. To effectively address communicable disease versus a chronic disease requires a very different strategy for both treatment and delivery of care. We need a system and a standard of care that acknowledges the principles and the variables that influence chronic disease. At the same time our strategy must include a target that can be realistically pursued instead of the current standard of care which suggests that chronic diseases can only be managed.
The pursuit of quality of life must be the target of a new standard of care when considering chronic disease. The paradigm of chronic disease dissolution needs to shift to one where healthy aging and healthy living become the foundation of any healthcare protocol. The key to successfully executing within this paradigm is a therapy and lifestyle centric program. Everspring Health is an emerging leader in this area of integrative healthcare and can help you, your family or your business take advantage of these resources today.
Developing a more appropriate model for primary care requires that we create a new diagnostic algorithm and clinical care model that serves the core of personalized healthcare - the individual. For any model to be successful it must provide the foundation on which to build a system that has the depth and breadth necessary to meet the unique demands of a broad population on a personal level. The core of any new model of primary healthcare need not be redefined or reinvented as the definition presented in the Declaration of Alma-Ata, adopted at the International Conference on Primary Healthcare in 1978, is more than sufficient starting with the section highlighted below.
“Primary healthcare is essential healthcare based on practical, scientifically sound and socially acceptable methods and technology made universally accessible to individuals and families in the community through their full participation and at a cost that the community and country can afford to maintain at every stage of their development in the spirit of self-reliance and self-determination. It forms an integral part both of the country's health system, of which it is the central function and main focus, and of the overall social and economic development of the community. It is the first level of contact of individuals, the family and community with the national health system bringing healthcare as close as possible to where people live and work, and constitutes the first element of a continuing healthcare process. .” Declaration of Alma-Ata
Bringing healthcare closer to where people live is as key to the process of developing a new model as any other part of the statement above. Lifestyle diseases (or diseases of longevity) have increased in notable frequency as countries have become more industrialized coupled with the fact that people are living longer. These diseases include Alzheimer's disease, atherosclerosis, asthma, cancer, chronic liver diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, chronic renal failure, osteoporosis, stroke, depression and obesity. Of these diseases the WHO notes that heart disease is the leading cause of lifestyle related disease worldwide.
The rate at which this shift has been happening hasn’t gone unnoticed, in fact it has been talked about now for almost 40 years. We can see how the WHO has observed trends within the system and attempted to bring notice of these trends to light via their annual reports. The information below includes select titles of World Health Reports along with a summary of those reports demonstrating the observance of trending needs. The following are summaries from each respected report offering insight as to what trends are being observed over the last two decades.
The reports above provide us with some perspective of the shifting demands worldwide, including an aging population, growing influence of chronic disease, loss of primary care support and the changing needs related to health care strategy. The WHO along with other groups like the Committee on Quality of Health in America (CQHCA) have been documenting, researching and presenting their findings on health care needs for over a decade. The depth and breadth of the issues we face in health care today are clear and the value of this research project is to dig through this information to find what information can be applied more effectively.