Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

Updated October 2012

Policymakers can help reduce the prevalence, health effects and costs of chronic disease and conditions by:

  • Promoting health and wellness programs at schools, worksites, healthcare and community-based settings.
  • Enacting policies that support healthy choices and healthy environments.   
  • Ensuring access to a full range of quality health services for those with chronic conditions.
  • Supporting programs that focus on eliminating racial, ethnic, and socio-economic based health disparities.
  • Supporting efforts to effectively educate the public about their health and prevention of chronic disease.

Chronic Disease: The Facts

  • Chronic diseases—heart disease, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and stroke—are the leading causes of death in the United States.
  • Seven of every 10 deaths in the U.S. are caused by chronic conditions; heart disease is the leading cause of death among both men and women, followed by cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases—diabetes is seventh.
  • Chronic, disabling conditions cause major limitations in activity for more than one of every 10 Americans, or 25 million people.
  • Many chronic conditions can be prevented by not smoking, being physically active and eating nutritious foods.
  • While guidelines vary depending on health status, the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults engage in 2.5 hours of physical activity per week to lower their risk of heart disease, stroke and other chronic conditions.

Source: CDC, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (2010).

Bar chart of Leading Cases of Death, 2009

Source: Kochanek KD, Xu JQ, Murphy SL, MiniƱo AM, Kung HC. Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2009. National vital statistics reports; vol 59 no 4. Hyattsville, MD: National Centers for Health Statistics. 2011.

Preventing Chronic Disease and Promoting Health Among all Populations
In addition to being among the most prevalent and costly health conditions, chronic diseases are also among the most preventable of all health problems.

  • $5.6 billion in heart disease costs could be saved if 10 percent of adults began a regular walking program.

  • Of the 50 million US adults with high blood pressure, 70 percent do not have their blood pressure under control.

  • Colorectal cancer screening can reduce the number of colon cancer deaths by at least 30 percent.  
  • A mammogram every 1-2 years for women in their 40s and 50s reduces the risk of death from breast cancer by about 15 percent. 
  • Regular eye exams/timely treatment could prevent up to 90 percent of diabetes-related blindness. Regular foot examinations/patient education could prevent up to 85 percent of diabetes related amputations.
  • Tobacco use is the single most preventable U. S. cause of death.
  • Physical inactivity contributes to disease and disability, accounting for 22 percent of colon cancer, 18 percent of osteoporotic fractures, and 12 percent of diabetes and hypertension.
  • An investment of $10 per person per year in proven community-based programs to increase physical activity, improve nutrition, and prevent smoking and other tobacco use could save the country more than $16 billion annually within five years. This is a return of $5.60 for every $1. 

Sources: CDC, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (2009). “The Power of Prevention: Chronic Disease… the public health challenge of the 21st century.” ; Trust for America's Health report Prevention for a Healthier America: Investments in Disease Prevention Yield Significant Savings, Stronger Communities July 2008; U.S. Preventive Service Task Force Recommendations.

To help legislators and administration officials assess the value of chronic disease prevention, the CDC has created a Chronic Disease Cost Calculator. This downloadable tool can help states estimate the amount of money Medicaid spends on six chronic diseases—congestive heart failure, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, cancer and diabetes. Lawmakers can use this tool to compare the cost-effectiveness of preventative programs versus treating chronic disease.

County Health Rankings: 2012 Health Outcomes by County Quartile

United States of County Health Rankings: 2012 Health Outcomes by County Quartile

County Health Rankings

Ranking the population’s health in nearly every county in the nation, the County Health Rankings illustrate factors that contribute to making people sick or keeping them healthy, shaping communities’ health outcomes. Published by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin’s Population Health Institute, the Rankings consider factors that affect people’s health in four categories:

  • health behaviors, such as smoking, unhealthy diet, and lack of exercise;
  • clinical care, including quality and accessibility of primary care physicians;
  • social and economic factors, such as high school graduation rates, number of
  • children living in poverty, income levels, and crime rates; and
  • physical environment, from the availability of healthy food options to air pollution.

Options for Policymakers
State policymakers can use the County Health Rankings to generate a snapshot of community health to compare people’s health in their districts to the population’s health in other counties in their state and national benchmarks. Policymakers can also use the County Health Roadmaps—provided with the Rankings—to spur collaborative efforts with philanthropies, business and community leaders, health professionals, and educators interested in addressing specific community health concerns or health disparities. Data from the Rankings can also be used to evaluate health programs or policies.

Source: University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, “County Health Rankings & Roadmaps.” (Madison,WI: UWPHI, 2012). Update due 2013.

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