Our Nation's Chronic Disease Epidemic Is Getting Worse So, Who's Responsible?

Rita Numerof
Time Saved: 8 Min
Our Nation's Chronic Disease Epidemic Is Getting Worse So, Who's Responsible?

Clearly, we have a healthcare epidemic on our hands. So, what’s the problem? For those living with chronic conditions, a fractured U.S. healthcare delivery system that prioritizes profits over patient outcomes has left them in the lurch.

In my last column , I discussed why it is imperative that pharmaceutical companies overhaul their research and development (R&D) approach, and how failure to do so will lead to serious, unintended consequences for cancer patients in desperate search of and need for life-saving drugs.

During my tenure in the 1980’s as an assistant professor at Washington University in Saint Louis, I was part of a clinical research team at the medical school focused on helping individuals with diabetes understand how to better manage their personal health.

For the better part of the last half century , researchers and the federal government have been trying to address the underlying causes and risk factors contributing to chronic diseases — diet, lack of exercise and sleep, elevated stress levels, high blood pressure, smoking and the list goes on.

Thankfully, we have made some positive strides in identifying underlying causes of chronic illness and changing some behaviors, like reducing smoking rates among adults and younger Americans.

However, many conditions, such as pre-diabetes and high blood pressure, don’t always manifest themselves with early, visible symptoms, meaning patients continue their unhealthy lifestyle, unaware of how it affects their body.

For years, both in this column and in my books, I’ve been warning about the negative impact a siloed, inefficient, confusing and expensive healthcare delivery system is having on patient care.

First and foremost, we have a broken fee-for-service model that has prioritized revenue capture and lowering operating expenses to increase margins over improved health outcomes.

Yes, there are many physicians committed to their patients’ well-being, but they are increasingly in the minority as cost pressures from payers and system consolidation have created a “test more, treat more, consume more health services,” mentality.