American Association for Clinical Chemistry
Better health through laboratory medicine
July 2009 Clinical Laboratory News: Rates of Chronic Disease Expected to Rise Sharply

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July 2009: Volume 35, Number 7


Rates of Chronic Disease Expected to Rise Sharply

A new report released by the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease, “The Impact of Chronic Disease on U.S. Health and Prosperity: A Collection of Statistics and Commentary,” presents an overview of current trends in chronic disease and how it is affecting the U.S. healthcare system. According to the report, the rates of chronic diseases are expected to continue to rise due to several factors, including childhood obesity, poor lifestyle choice, and lack of access or emphasis on preventative care, posing significant problems for the U.S. healthcare system.

Currently, more than 133 million Americans, or 45% of the population, have at least one chronic condition, and 26% have multiple chronic conditions. Chronic disease is the leading cause of death and disability in the U.S., responsible for 70% of all, and accounted for four of the top five causes of death in 2005.

One of the most worrisome trends is the increase in childhood obesity, which has tripled in the U.S. over the past two decades, resulting in the quadrupling of childhood chronic diseases in the past four decades. Due to this increase in childhood obesity, the next generation of Americans is at a greater risk for developing chronic disease.

By 2023, the picture worsens considerably, with a more than 50% increase projected in cases of cancer, mental disorders, and diabetes, and more than 40% growth in heart disease. Hypertension and pulmonary conditions are expected to rise by more than 30% and incidences of stroke by more than 25% (See graph).

The report also details the burden chronic disease has taken on the U.S. healthcare system and economy. Treatment costs related to chronic disease account for an estimated $1.7 trillion annually, or about three-quarters of total healthcare dollars spent. Chronic disease also leads to considerable decreased work productivity. The report advocates for increased public spending on healthcare with an emphasis on well-designed disease prevention and wellness programs as a possible way to reduce the detrimental effects of chronic disease.

A copy of the report can be found online.