Area of Agreement: Why We Need to Tackle Chronic Disease

Posted by: in Healthcare Insights on April 15, 2011

The last 48 hours have been something of a health policy bonanza, and it’s not just the PhRMA meeting. Less than 100 miles away, in Philadelphia, a different group of health-focused professionals is also holding their annual meeting: the Association of Health Care Journalists.

Not surprisingly, the same question is being asked in both places: how do we ensure that Americans get high-quality health care. And the answer seems to be the same in both places: panelists and speakers in Jersey City and in Philadelphia have strikingly similar sets of solutions.

Many of those solutions focus on preventing or intervening early in chronic disease, as PhRMA’s Kate Connors summarized in her updates. The Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease, the STOP Obesity Alliance, the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids all recognize a fundamental truth about health care: the earlier — and more effectively — we can intervene, the better. And the more tools we have to do that, the better. Just because we know that some behaviors are healthy, such as quitting smoking or losing weight, doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Down in Philadelphia, health policy heavyweights were making almost the exact same argument. Last night, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Don Berwick made it clear that care couldn’t improve until we targeted patients with — or at risk of — chronic disease. And he acknowledged that the responsibility for that improvement goes beyond the individual. And this morning, Francis Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, made clear that prevention is crucial.

So there is clear alignment on the need for interventions that can delay, prevent or reverse chronic diseases. But the potential roadblocks are real: there’s a need for investment, there is a need for incentives, there is a need for regulations that make developing these drugs easier, not harder. But speakers at PhRMA over the past two days have given a map for overcoming those issues, and there’s hope that agreement on the solutions will be as universal as the agreement on the problem.

By: Brian Reid

Brian Reid is a managing director at W2O Group, where he oversees influencer relations. He is a former journalist who believes content really is king.

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