The high cost of chronic disease in FLIn Florida, chronic diseases — and caring for people living with these conditions — is a major issue affecting the state’s economy and health care system.

Chronic diseases, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes as “conditions that last one year or more and require ongoing medical attention” affect more than 13.1 million Floridians, according to the Florida’s State Health Assessment: Key Findings 2016–2017.

That’s more than half of the state’s population. Almost 6 million residents have at least two chronic diseases.

Perhaps most worrisome, nearly seven out of 10 deaths were attributed to chronic diseases in Florida in 2014, according to the Florida’s State Health Assessment: Key Findings 2016–2017. In 2017, the CDC identified heart disease and cancer as the leading causes of death in the state.

Seniors and Chronic Disease

Our risk of developing a chronic disease increases as we age. In Florida, the chronic diseases most likely to affect older adults include diabetes, hypertension and chronic kidney disease, according to studies by the University of Florida and Florida State University. Heart disease is also prevalent in Florida.

Our risk for developing cancer also increases with age. The Florida Department of Health says approximately 60% of the newly diagnosed cases of cancer, and 70% of cancer deaths, occur in people age 65 and older.

The High Cost of Chronic Disease Care in Florida

Per capita, Florida has the highest population of older adults in the United States, so resources for chronic disease care is increasing. As the state’s population grows in coming years — the Florida Chamber of Commerce estimates that it might reach nearly 26 million by 2030 — so will the costs of caring for Floridians living with chronic diseases.

The Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease, a national advocacy group, projects the total cost of chronic disease care in Florida will add up to $3 trillion between 2016 and 2030. Then there’s the additional $55.5 billion per year in lost employee productivity for people with the disease and their caregivers.

In addition to the scheduling demands and lost work hours for caregivers, a study among outpatient clinics at Duke University and Durham VA Medical Centers showed caregivers of people with chronic diseases also face increased risk for conditions like anxiety, depression and insomnia.

Preventing Chronic Disease in Florida

While chronic diseases in Florida are among the most common and costly health issues facing residents, they’re also one of the most preventable.

The state’s goals for Healthy People 2020, a national initiative for improving the health of all Americans, include reducing the number of chronic disease diagnoses and deaths by encouraging people to embrace healthier lifestyles. This includes eating a nutritious diet, getting regular exercise and stopping smoking.

Providing better chronic disease care in Florida — including access to state-of-the-art prevention, diagnosis and treatment facilities — is another of the state’s Healthy People 2020 goals.

Candace DeMatties, the national policy director of the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease, said access to better prevention and treatment options could save the lives of almost 12,000 Floridians with chronic diseases each year.

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