Imagine being given the keys to a complex, high-tech car and told to drive it across the country with minimal instruction and no manual. That’s what it can feel like to be told you have diabetes, asthma, kidney disease, or some other complex chronic condition.
Take diabetes as an example. People diagnosed with this lifelong condition have to do a lot more to manage it than take medication. It’s a day in and day out process of monitoring blood sugar levels along with every bit of food consumed. Months can go by between doctor visits, with many people floundering in their attempts at self-management and falling off course with their care plans. Others, feeling overwhelmed, forget to follow up with providers, miss medication doses, and don’t eat healthily or exercise.
Chronic disease is a thorn in our nation’s side. About half of US adults have at least one chronic disease, while one-quarter of us have two or more of them. Chronic diseases are costly to treat, accounting for a staggering 86 percent of our national health care costs. Perhaps most perplexing is that chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and arthritis happen to be the most preventable — yet chronic disease is still the nation’s leading cause of death and disability.
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