Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Treat quality of life or treat disease?

Is health care starting to turn their attention to treating quality of life as opposed to treating disease? With chronic illness using up 75% of the $2.6 trillion we now spend annually on health care, let's hope so.

According to the CDC's ongoing, annual, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System study, which measures the number of "healthy" days 430,000 people have in a given month, the trend is not good. Newly released data show the number of physically unhealthy days has barely budged for over a decade, rising slightly to 3.6 days in 2009 from 3.3 days in 2000. The number of people who reported 14 or more mentally unhealthy days rose to 10.6% of the population from 9.6% over the same period.

Treating chronic illness must be more than just making sure cholesterol or glucose numbers are in range. Treating chronic illness must be about assessing and addressing quality of life. We spend trillions on extending lives by sometimes 20 or 30 years. But if many of those years are miserable, without anyone asking why, or providing the how-to, are we not doing the patients and the public a disservice?

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