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STATE REP. GILDA COBB-HUNTER AND THE PARTNERSHIP TO FIGHT CHRONIC DISEASE SPOTLIGHT TWIN BURDENS OF CHRONIC DISEASE AND HEALTH DISPARITIES

May 26, 2008

STATE REP. GILDA COBB-HUNTER AND THE PARTNERSHIP TO FIGHT CHRONIC DISEASE SPOTLIGHT TWIN BURDENS OF CHRONIC DISEASE AND HEALTH DISPARITIES

Briefing marks one-year anniversary of PFCD launch;

Research reveals 39 percent of SC counties experienced stagnant or reduced life expectancy for women in recent years

Columbia, SC – State Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter joined the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD) in celebrating the PFCD’s first anniversary. The PFCD took this opportunity to reiterate that prevention, in particular primary prevention or wellness activities related to lifestyle changes, can save money and lives — and that given the state of the health care system and the economy, the U.S. cannot afford to ignore this issue any longer.

“When we talk about health care reform in this country and how to make health care more affordable, we must focus on the number one driver of costs – preventable and poorly managed chronic diseases,” said PFCD Advisory Board member and Executive Director of the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors (NACDD), John Robitscher.

“The vast majority of spending in our system is rooted in treating these diseases, many of which are caused by poor health behaviors,” he said. “Until we put in place public and private policies that do a better job of helping Americans get and stay healthy, we will continue to see our health costs rise — and this will have serious repercussions for our economy.”

During the briefing, Robitscher discussed the South Carolina-specific data examined in the recently released Harvard School of Public Health study entitled, “The Reversal of Fortunes.” The data reveal that in 18 counties in South Carolina, life expectancy for women either declined or remained stagnant between 1983 and 1999 (the last year for which data were provided), a startling and alarming result.

“It is clearly unacceptable that in 39 percent of South Carolina’s counties, life expectancy, especially for women, did not keep pace with increases seen in most of the nation, or worse yet – actually declined,” said Rep. Cobb-Hunter.

Researchers found a clear correlation in the U.S. between socioeconomic status and life expectancy: Poorer counties did worse; wealthier counties did better.

“Poorer counties, especially in South Carolina, often means counties with a higher population of people of color,” said Rep. Cobb-Hunter. “That is why the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease’s policy platform calls on national and state leaders to reduce health disparities by focusing on barriers to good health.”

Researchers concluded that “female mortality increased … primarily because of chronic diseases related to smoking, overweight and obesity, and high blood pressure,” clearly spotlighting chronic disease as a major contributor to poor U.S. health outcomes.

Robitscher also released the 2008 edition of PFCD’s “Almanac of Chronic Disease,” a comprehensive resource for information about the impact of chronic disease on U.S. health and the U.S. health care system. Among other things, the Almanac reveals that, in the U.S. today, chronic diseases:

  • Affect more than 130 million Americans directly;
  • Account for 7 in 10 deaths;
  • Account for more than 75 cents of every dollar spent on health care, and nearly two-thirds of the growth in health care spending over the past 20 years; and,
  • Cost the U.S. economy $1 trillion a year in lost productivity.

Representatives from Mental Health America of South Carolina, which is one of the PFCD partner organizations that sponsored the Almanac, also joined the briefing.

As health care and the economy continue to be top-of-mind in the 2008 election, PFCD plans to continue to raise awareness of the connection of these issues to the nation’s chronic disease crisis, and to promote solutions that will work for all Americans.

“Given this group’s size and stature, we hope to play a key role in advancing ‘consensus’ solutions in health reform in 2008 and beyond,” said Robitscher. “We have made great strides in our first year, but we know there is much more to be done.”

The Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease is a national coalition of more than 100 patient, provider, community organizations, business and labor groups, and health policy experts committed to raising awareness of the number one cause of death, disability, and rising health care costs in the U.S.: chronic disease.

Note:  To access a copy of the “Almanac of Chronic Disease” online, please visit www.fightchronicdisease.org.

To access the Harvard School of Public Health study online, please visit http://medicine.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-document&doi=10.1371/journal.pmed.0050066. Scroll down to data set S-2 to view county-level data.

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