Curbing the Global Chronic Disease Crisis

25 August 2009 (Last Updated August 25th, 2009 18:30)

Over the course of the next decade, chronic diseases are set to replace infectious diseases as the world's top killer. The healthcare sector will then be left frantically in search of new ways of dealing with patients. A report from Global Data discovers more.

Curbing the Global Chronic Disease Crisis

According to the National Institute of Aging and the National Institute of Health, over the next ten to 15 years more loss of health and life will be attributed to chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes than from infectious diseases such as influenza and AIDS. This alarming prediction means the management of chronic diseases is likely to play an even more pivotal role in healthcare over the course of the next decade.

An ageing population and rapid urbanisation has led to a transition from infectious diseases to chronic diseases, which are likely to place a huge strain on healthcare budgets for developed and developing nations alike.

Because of this the need to develop effective solutions to manage and monitor these diseases and reduce healthcare costs will be imperative to the future. According to an exclusive report from GlobalData, patient-centred personal health monitoring systems could be one way forward.

Evidence of the epidemiological transition from infectious to chronic diseases has already been highlighted in developed countries in North America, Europe and the Western Pacific. Lifestyle changes in combination with an increasing number of elderly people represent an impending challenge for public health management.

"Lifestyle changes in combination with an increasing number of elderly people represent an impending challenge for public health management."

Illustrating such a point, the worldwide population over 65 years of age is predicted to increase by approximately 550 million to 973 million during 2000 and 2030. In the US, roughly 80% of all people aged 65 years and above have a minimum of one chronic condition and 50% have at least two.

Diabetes is a particular problem, affecting one in five of the aged 65 and above population. As this population continues to age, the impact of diabetes will intensify further.

Intricately linked, changing lifestyles due to rapid urbanisation has been another driver for this increase in chronic diseases. A significant proportion of the world's population live in cities and are prone to chronic diseases due to the effects of an improper diet, lack of exercise and increased exposure of the human body to professional and industrial hazards.

These elements all lead to conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and obesity. The treatment or management of chronic diseases such as these is to nurture self wellness among the global population through continuous and personal health monitoring.

Better coordination of care

Efforts to combat chronic diseases can be first traced back to the 1970s when the integration of telecommunications into medical and health monitoring started. In its early form, the technology was used almost exclusively for data transmission in the battle fields.

Now, telehealth technologies can be found in many homes, where they help monitor a patient recovering from an acute condition or a patient suffering with a chronic condition.

"Telehealth technologies can be found in many homes, where they help monitor a patient recovering from an acute condition or suffering with a chronic condition."

Advances in telehealth technologies have also allowed for a more integrated and systematic approach to personalising a patient's medical needs.

Personal health monitoring systems have the potential to reduce healthcare costs by creating internet portals for caregiver and family members which allow for fully customised health plans.

This full integration of home monitoring technologies effectively creates an extended care team – offering more than just a connection between a patient and a caseworker by also addressing all the patient's health and health information needs.

It seems likely that patient-centred care through personal health systems will be of increasing importance to the healthcare sector, particularly if such technology is able to deliver accurate, relevant and timely information to patient, physician and family members.

The concept of providing self-management tools for patients to take a more active role in their own healthcare seems a logical path forward as communication technologies are now capable of connecting the patient's entire care team, therefore offering a better coordination of care.

The report is available to purchase via GlobalData's Report Store.