A guest column by the American Medical Association, exclusive to KevinMD.com.
While the patient populations of individual physician practices vary greatly, nearly all physicians – regardless of practice location or specialty – see patients who have diabetes or cardiovascular disease or are at risk for developing them. Because cardiovascular disease accounts for one third of all deaths in the U.S., and 100 million Americans have diabetes or prediabetes, the American Medical Association (AMA) has launched a multi-year, multi-million dollar initiative to reduce the prevalence of these two diseases and improve outcomes for those already living with these conditions.
Cardiovascular disease and diabetes cause a tremendous amount of human suffering and the costs associated with the conditions are staggering. We will begin this initiative by first addressing the key risk factors for these conditions: high blood pressure and prediabetes.
One in three American adults has high blood pressure, the number one risk factor worldwide for disability and death. The AMA will partner with the Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality, a research institute within Johns Hopkins Medicine, to help meet and exceed the goal of the Department of Health and Human Services’ “Million Hearts®” initiative to bring the high blood pressure of 10 million more Americans under control by 2017. We will initially focus on improving outcomes for the 30 million people with hypertension who are receiving medical care but do not have their blood pressure under control. The AMA, working side-by-side with physicians and care teams, patients and families, communities and public health agencies, will seek to better understand the reasons for uncontrolled hypertension, find meaningful solutions and share lessons learned across the nation.
One in three U.S. adults has prediabetes, and those with this condition are at greatly increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Our initial efforts will be in support of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Diabetes Prevention Program. In partnership with the YMCA of the USA, the AMA will work to increase physician referrals of patients with prediabetes to the evidence-based prevention programs offered by the Y that help increase physical activity, improve diet and achieve moderate weight loss. We have researched barriers to referrals and we will use this information to help physicians and medical practice staff, local Ys and other organizations develop new, streamlined approaches to getting patients at risk in diabetes prevention programs.
As physicians, we see firsthand how proper medical interventions coupled with the utilization of community resources can dramatically reduce the impact of cardiovascular disease and diabetes on our population. As the largest physician organization in the nation, the AMA is uniquely positioned to join the efforts currently underway to tackle these diseases, reduce health care spending and create a healthier America.
Jeremy Lazarus is president, American Medical Association.