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February 24, 2003

Surveys Find Chronic Conditions A Widespread Concern

A majority of physicians, policy makers, and the public are concerned that the nation’s health care system does not address the needs of people with chronic medical conditions, according to the results of surveys conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Previous research by the School of Public Health found that chronic conditions are the leading reason people seek medical care and that the treatment of chronic conditions accounts for 78 percent of all health expenditures in the United States. The surveys are published in the February 25 edition of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

“The results suggest that the public, physicians, and policymakers are well aware of the shortcomings of the current system. A challenge of the 21st century will be to reorganize the medical care system around the treatment of chronic conditions and especially those with multiple chronic conditions,” explained Gerard Anderson, PhD, professor of health policy and management and international health at the School of Public Health. He is also national program director for Partnership for Solutions, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation national program to improve the care and quality of life of Americans with chronic health conditions.

The Hopkins surveys sampled the attitudes of 1,741 physicians, 1,663 adults from the general public, and 155 health policy makers. Each group was questioned on their knowledge of the costs and prevalence of chronic conditions, adequacy of the health care system to finance and treat people with chronic conditions, and their personal attitudes towards chronic conditions.

The three surveys found more than 90 percent of all respondents agreed that chronic conditions affected everyone. The three groups also agreed that the current health care system was not meeting the needs of people with chronic conditions, with most agreeing that it is "somewhat" or "very difficult" for persons with chronic conditions to receive adequate medical insurance.

While all of the groups generally agreed that the needs of chronically ill are not being met, Dr. Anderson says he was somewhat surprised to find that the general public was the most positive about the ability of the current health care system to meet those needs. The results showed that 38 percent of the public believed current government programs were adequate to meet the needs of people with chronic medical conditions, while only 11 percent of policy makers agreed.

“Nearly 125 million Americans suffer from at least one chronic condition, which is projected to grow to 157 million by 2020. There is widespread agreement that the current medical system is not meeting the needs of people with chronic medical conditions. Changes in how medical care is financed and delivered are necessary to respond to these concerns,” said Dr. Anderson.

“Physicians, Public, and Policymaker Perspectives on Chronic Conditions” was written by Gerard Anderson, PhD.

The research was funded by Partnerships for Solutions, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Public Affairs Media Contacts for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Kenna Brigham or Tim Parsons @ 410-955-6878 or paffairs@jhsph.edu.