Healthy Living

America Has A Chronic Illness Crisis

This isn’t an issue that affects some obscure number of people.

The calls come in every hour. Usually, the voice on the other end of the line is in critical need, often desperate, and has many questions. As the head of a charitable foundation that assists patients with access to medicines they need but cannot afford, a big part of my daily routine is working with the patient care specialists that have become a last line of defense for individuals battling chronic illness in this country.

Every day, seven out of 10 deaths are caused by chronic diseases. Studies show that preventable chronic conditions cost the U.S. nearly $347 billion in 2010. It is a crisis that consumes 86 percent of our nation’s total health care expenditures. The daily toll is alarming, costly, and most importantly, preventable. The most common chronic disease conditions, like cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes and obesity, are also the most avoidable. According to America’s Health Rankings, a report conducted annually for the past 25 years, cardiovascular disease remains the No. 1 killer, while obesity steadily rises across the country.

Not all chronic diseases result from lifestyle choices and behavior, but the ones that do are costing us dearly. Chronic disease patients routinely need assistance to afford their medication or with travel to get to their medical appointments. But most often they are in need of hope. On an individual basis, chronic disease brings worry and emotional distress, physical hardship, expensive treatments, medications and prohibitive co-payments, both for the patient and for their families. More often than not, health insurance is not enough to cover mounting costs of care. A staggering number of patients are forced to choose between affording every day necessities, such as food, and their medical treatments. This isn’t an issue that affects some obscure number of people in America. Nearly 30 percent of insured individuals cannot afford their treatments.

Simply by increasing national awareness we can change the dynamic of this healthcare crisis. That is why Good Days is working to make July 10 (7/10) Chronic Disease Awareness Day. As a nation we need to decrease the rate of avoidable hospitalizations, spend less time smoking cigarettes and more time being active, and show awareness of what we eat and where it comes from.

It touches almost every single person in America: it is nearly a guarantee that either you or someone you know is battling a chronic disease. So on the week of July 10, engage your community leaders to talk about access to healthy foods, community fitness opportunities, increasing local farmers’ markets, or creating active routes to schools like bike and walking paths. The primary contributors to death and disability in America are preventable. By living a healthier lifestyle and charting paths to improve public health conditions in your area, we can actually make a difference.

Join Good Days and make July 10, 2017, Chronic Disease Awareness Day!

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Email SupportCDADay@mygooddays.org to submit a CDA Day proclamation for your hometown and for more information on how to get involved. Because 7/10 people succumbing to chronic illness is too many.

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Clorinda Walley is the Executive Director of Good Days, a national, independent 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organization that provides financial assistance to patients so that they do not have to choose between access to medicine they need and affording everyday living. Since 2003, Good Days has provided more than 800,000 grants and helped more than 500,000 people with access to healthcare resources. For more information about Good Days, visit www.mygooddays.org.