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New Group Says Chronic Disease Should be Key Health Care Issue in 2008 Election

Chronic disease accounts for 7 in 10 deaths, over 75 cents of every health care dollar spent in U.S.

May 16, 2007 - Chronic diseases are responsible for seven out of every 10 deaths in the U.S. and a new coalition has formed behind the goal of making the issue of chronic disease the key health care issue in the 2008 presidential election. What were described by the organizations as “leading experts and organizations in the health care, business, and labor communities” came together yesterday to launch the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD).

The PFCD is led by Richard H. Carmona, M.D., M.P.H., FACS, the 17th Surgeon General of the United States (2002-2006) and Ken Thorpe, Ph.D., Chair, Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University and a former White House health policy advisor.


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"We have a 'sick care' system, not a health care system in this country. That's why this diverse coalition is sounding the alarm and calling for action," said Carmona.

"Despite any differences we may have on other issues, we all agree on a single, undeniable fact: 130 million people suffer from chronic diseases in our nation, and costs are skyrocketing because of preventable and poorly managed chronic diseases. We can -- and we must -- do something to stop it."

"Americans suffering from chronic diseases, such as diabetes, asthma, and heart disease can and do have devastating effects in terms of lives lost, quality of life lost, and tremendous financial burden. The good news is that the benefits of action could be the opposite," Carmona added.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chronic diseases are responsible for seven out of every 10 deaths in the U.S. -- killing more than 1.7 million Americans every year. Chronic diseases are also the primary driver of health care costs, accounting for more than 75% of the $2 trillion dollars spent each year on health care in the United States.

"Any serious proposal to reform our health care system must address preventable chronic disease," said Thorpe. "Our nation's premier business, labor, health care, and community organizations are dedicated to making chronic diseases like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer the number one health care priority for policymakers and presidential candidates."

Thorpe, along with other high-profile health policy experts, including former Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Mark McClellan, M.D., announced the broad-based effort that aims to change the way our nation approaches chronic disease at a panel discussion today. Representatives from more than 50 organizations attended the event, which was held at the National Capital YMCA, a critical partner in the effort.

Leaders from such organizations as the American Academy of Family Physicians, America's Agenda: Health Care for All, American Hospital Association, America's pharmaceutical companies, National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations, National Health Council, and Service Employee International Union joined Thorpe and McClellan on the panel.

During the event, Thorpe and McClellan delivered a keynote presentation titled "An Unhealthy Truth" -- an overview of the crisis of chronic disease and the lack of awareness among the majority of Americans about the problem and potential solutions. Key facts in the presentation included:

-- 30% of the increase in health spending since 1987 is due to doubling of the rate of obesity during that time;

-- Two-thirds of spending over the past 25 years is attributable to the rise in rates of treated chronic disease; and

-- Only a small fraction of Americans, fewer than one in six, comprehend the magnitude of the problem: that chronic diseases represent more than 70% of the deaths in the U.S. and more than 75% of health care costs.

"There is a lot of debate about how to pay for health care, but there is a lot of agreement about the need for better prevention and management of chronic diseases that can yield better results for patients and overall cost savings," said McClellan. "With the presidential election coming up, we intend to do all we can to put the focus on the critical need to reduce the burden of chronic disease. It's essential for our health and for the sustainability of our health care system."

In order to bring the issue of chronic disease to the forefront of the national dialogue on health care, the PFCD is modeling its outreach strategy and tactics after a modern-day presidential campaign. Thorpe and other national partners will participate in the launches of state chapters over the next few days and weeks in high-profile presidential primary states, such as Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. The launches of state-based PFCD campaigns will jump-start the PFCD's grassroots campaign, which includes voter and candidate education and media outreach. While the initial phase of the campaign targets early presidential primary states, the PFCD will continue spreading its message through the 2008 presidential election and beyond.

Paid media is a critical part of the PFCD's awareness-building efforts. Print, radio, billboard, and other highly visible outdoor advertisements aim to educate consumers and policymakers on the issue of chronic disease. The ads will explicitly ask voters to hold presidential candidates responsible for addressing the issue.

Starting today, the PFCD will also run an extensive online advertising campaign to drive consumers and policymakers to the coalition's innovative Web site ( where they can:

>> Sign a petition to voice support for the fight against chronic disease;

>> Learn the appropriate ways to contact policymakers;

>> Explore model programs that are successful in fighting chronic disease and improving health in communities across the nation;

>> Access recent research conducted by the PFCD and other organizations, as well as fact sheets and toolkits that offer helpful tips on healthy living at home and in the workplace;

>> Stay informed with the latest news on chronic disease, health and wellness, and health care policies; and

>> Keep tabs on current legislation that may affect the prevention and treatment of chronic disease in the United States.

About the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease

The Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD) is a national bipartisan coalition of patients, providers, community organizations, business and labor groups, and health policy experts committed to raising awareness of the number one cause of death, disability, and rising health care costs in the U.S.: chronic disease.

The PFCD's mission is to:

-- Challenge policymakers - in particular, the 2008 presidential candidates -- to make the issue of chronic disease a top priority and articulate how they will address the issue through their health care proposals

-- Educate the public about chronic disease and potential solutions for individuals, communities, and the nation

-- Mobilize Americans to call for change in how policymakers, governments, employers, health institutions, and other entities approach chronic disease

Leaders in the effort represent more than 50 leading organizations from across health care, business and labor including Aetna, American Academy of Family Physicians, Alliance for Aging Research, American Academy of Physician Assistants, American College of Nurse Practitioners, American College of Preventive Medicine, American Hospital Association, American Pharmacists Association Foundation, Disease Management Association of America, Kerr Drug, Integrated Benefits Institute, International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, NAACP, Milken Institute, National Association of Manufacturers, National Medical Association, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, Service Employees International Union, Sheet Metal Workers International Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and YMCA of the USA, among others.

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