Chronic disease should be top priority

In the United States, we spend more money each year maintaining our cars than we do maintaining our health. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this country spends less per person on preventive health than the cost of an oil change.

Meanwhile chronic diseases, such as asthma, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and depression are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States, affecting the lives of 90 million Americans. No effort to improve the health of the people of New Hampshire can afford to overlook the impact of chronic disease on our families.

Chronic diseases lead to seven out of every 10 deaths in the United States,- killing more than 1.7 million Americans every year. Studies by the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease show total costs related to chronic disease have soared to approximately $3.3 billion and account for 75 cents of every dollar spent on health care.

Clearly, if we want to improve the affordability and quality of health care, we must make chronic disease prevention and management a chief priority for our state’s health-care system. This affects young and old alike.

According to the New Hampshire Council for Children and Adolescents with Chronic Health Conditions, one in six children currently contend with a chronic health condition. To put that into perspective – 42,000 New Hampshire children suffer with chronic diseases, and 10,000 of those children have a life- threatening chronic illness.

Combine this with the nearly half a million other New Hampshire residents with chronic health conditions and the magnitude of this problem truly takes form.

In many cases, chronic diseases are preventable. Developing healthy habits can go a long way to preventing chronic conditions like heart disease, cancer, strokes and diabetes.

It remains critically important that policymakers, businesses, health-care groups and families all do their part to address chronic disease treatment and prevention in New Hampshire.

On May 23, Governor Lynch took New Hampshire in the right direction with his proclamation of May 25-May 31 as “Chronic Disease Awareness Week.” It was our honor to have the opportunity to attend and to speak in support of this important issue. The governor’s proclamation is just the beginning of our renewed efforts to help families across the state lead healthier lives.

Let’s make 2008 a healthier year in the state of New Hampshire.

State Sen. Margaret Hassan is a Democrat from Exeter. State Sen. Jack Barnes is a Republican from Raymond.

Categories: Opinion