Modern disease burden “greater than the sum of its parts”

ModernDiseaseGreaterA brand new study concludes that doctors better learn to multitask in order to manage tomorrow’s hospitals, as more and more Americans are suffering from multiple chronic conditions at once.

The researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health studied the medical records of 1.4 million people age 67 and older who were enrolled in Medicare as of January 1, 2008. Two-thirds of those studied had 3 or more chronic diseases. Lead author Eva DuGoff said the problem is here to stay. “Living with multiple chronic diseases such as diabetes, kidney disease and heart problems is now the norm and not the exception in the U.S.”

The researchers calculated that a 75-year-old woman with no chronic diseases can expect to live an additional 17 years.

Gerard F. Anderson, a professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management, said a balancing act is needed to care for complicated multiple conditions.. There are more organs and other body systems involved and “more physicians prescribing for one that may conflict with another. In truth, the U.S. Health Care system is not designed to handle co-occurring diseases. Specialized medications have side effects and those side effects don’t always line up with each disease. Each one adds up and makes the burden of disease greater than the sum of its parts.”

What to do?

Well, the researchers acknowledged that some conditions such as diabetes are diet-related and, unless there are genetic factors, are preventable. They did NOT go so far as to say that doctors of the future badly need to review the Hippocratic oath, “First, do no harm.” Those future docs need to prescribe chemicals less and study preventive medicine more, in order to truly care for their patients. They need to learn about enzymes and good bacteria, and that most of today’s food (Standard American Diet) is pathetic, lacking in vitamins, minerals, probiotics and the essential nutrients needed by the body to prevent chronic diseases.

Add to all those food deficiencies pesticides and various other pollutions, and you have  ‘perfect storm’ conditions for a disease burden “greater than the sum of its parts.”


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