Treatment for chronic conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, cancer, and asthma, accounts for 75 percent of the nation's $2 trillion dollar health care spending.
The Centers for Disease Control says in the taxpayer-supported health care programs, 96 cents per dollar for Medicare and 83 cents per dollar of Medicaid goes toward treatment of chronic disease.
The CDC says the U.S. cannot effectively address escalating health care costs without addressing the problem of chronic disease.
There are efforts being made to do just that, by offering programs to help those with on-going conditions learn to better manage their own care.
Each of these individuals is struggling with an on-going health issue. They are looking for ways to deal with chronic fatigue, pain, shortness of breath or other symptoms that come from a physical condition they may have had for years. Georgia Lincoln, Des Moines: I have diabetes. I had open heart surgery in 2000, have arthritis, have asthma and I think that's about it." This Chronic Disease Self-Management Program –coordinated/implemented by the Iowa Department on Aging -- is a 6-week course.
It offers breathing exercises to deal with stress and pain ... exercises to help prevent stiffness... and the sharing of each other's so-called "action plan" that just might offer others a bit of encouragement or moral support.
Inez Busch, Des Moines: "Well, I'm diabetic and that's the main reason why I came up here to exercise is great for diabetes and I just need a little bit of a pep-talk and its been helpful to have a lot of people around and hear what they're doing for themselves."
Georgia Lincoln, Des Moines: "I was doing exercise but I get discouraged because my left knee hurts as bad as it did before surgery and I was just kind got discouraged and give up at times and this class encourages me to keep going on."
Motivation is a major objective of the program. But the overall goal is to help keep these folks out of an expensive trip to the hospital. And that is working.
Tammy Keiter, Polk County Health Planning Specialist: "It's an evidence-based program. It has been scientifically researched that, you know, to show that they're -- people are improving in these programs and that it helps in the self--the health care utilization. Less doctors trips to the-- less trips to the doctor and less trips to the hospital."
The Chronic Disease Self-Management Program started in 2007 and is offered in more than 40 counties. It's not meant to replace an individual's physician. It is a peer-led group by those who also deal with chronic heath issues.
Jim Easter, class facilitator: "We teach for pain diversion techniques, mind diversion techniques, and we demonstrate it. So I think it-- things that probably doctors don't have time to talk to people about in detail."
Tammy Keiter, Polk County Health: "There's 70 million Americans that are 55 and older that have, you know, at least one chronic condition. With the baby boomers becoming of age that we've got to start, you know, getting a handle on people that have these chronic conditions learn how to self manage."