The structure of the health system in Illinois includes public policy development for chronic disease prevention and health promotion.

Prevention and control of chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, obesity and respiratory diseases are the major public health challenges of the 21st century. Chronic diseases are the leading causes of death and disability in the U.S. Seven out of 10 deaths among Americans each year are due to chronic diseases. Heart disease, cancer and stroke account for more than half of all deaths each year. Nearly one out of every two adults has at least one chronic illness. More than 75 percent of our healthcare spending is on people with chronic diseases that could have been prevented. Health disparities in chronic diseases are widespread among members of racial and ethnic minority populations.

Illnesses caused by chronic diseases have a significant impact on our healthcare delivery system. More than two thirds of Americans believe that the U.S. healthcare delivery system should focus more on chronic disease preventive care. More than four out of five Americans favor public funding for prevention programs. The majority of chronic diseases are known to be associated with risky health behaviors such as lack of physical activity, poor nutrition, tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption. Furthermore, lack of access to regular medical care, preventive health screenings and early detection services plays a major role in the illness and premature death related to chronic diseases.

Evidence-based health promotion and education programs, along with policy, environmental and system change approaches at the national, state and local levels for chronic disease prevention and control have been proven to be effective at very little cost. Trust for America’s Health estimates that an investment of $10 per person per year in community-based programs tackling physical inactivity, poor nutrition and smoking could yield more than $16 billion in medical cost savings annually within five years. This saving represents a remarkable return of $5.60 for every dollar spent, without considering additional savings in work productivity, reduced absenteeism and enhanced quality of life.

In order to reduce chronic disease burdens in Illinois, it is crucial to have state-coordinated prevention programs with sustainable funding for local communities to promote healthy behaviors, expand early detection and diagnosis of disease, and increase access to preventive health services. Effective community-based health promotion programs focusing on prevention, early detection and public education should be a public health priority.

The prevention and control of chronic diseases affecting individuals, families, and the economy and health of our community are the shared responsibility of us all. We need to make a healthy community our priority. iBi