The Johns Hopkins Gazette: March 3, 2003
March 3, 2003
VOL. 32, NO. 24


Public Health Surveys Find Chronic Conditions a Widespread Concern

By Tim Parsons
School of Public Health

Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

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 Feb. 25 edition of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

"The results suggest that the public, physicians and policy-makers are well aware of the shortcoming 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," explains Gerard Anderson, 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. All were 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 toward chronic conditions.

The surveys found that more than 90 percent of all respondents agreed that chronic conditions affected everyone. The three groups also agreed that the current health care system is 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 the groups generally agreed that the needs of the chronically ill are not being met, 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," Anderson says.