The high-stakes rewards for a low-cost strategy - How managing symptoms can reduce healthcare costs

The high-stakes rewards for a low-cost strategy - How managing symptoms can reduce healthcare costs
Photo by National Cancer Institute / Unsplash

by Alvin C. Tanicala, MHA, RHIT

Chronic diseases have significant health and economic costs in the United States, according to the CDC. When prevention is not possible, managing symptoms can reduce costs.

The CDC defines chronic diseases broadly as conditions that last 1 year or more and require ongoing medical attention or limit activities of daily living or both. The leading causes of death and disability in the United States are heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. They are also leading drivers of the nation’s $3.8 trillion in annual health care costs.

A short list of risk behaviors causes many chronic diseases:

The World Health Organization (2016) identified the four main types of chronic diseases: cardiovascular diseases (like heart attacks and stroke), cancers, chronic respiratory diseases (such as chronic obstructed pulmonary disease and asthma), and diabetes.

If you notice the cause of these diseases is risky behavior. At-risk behavior is anything that puts you at risk for future negative consequences, like poor health, injury, or death (Morin, 2020).

The low-cost technology to mitigate chronic illnesses is really about common sense. But common sense has become a fallacy, according to Taylor (2011). He said that our culture of ideology (any ideology that wants to tell us what we should think and do) has transformed us to be stupid, ill-informed, and poor decision-makers.

The low-cost solution for our high-stakes conditions is rather deceptively simple. Taylor (2011) may be right that we don't have common sense at all. Because studies have proven and CDC has advocated for it ("How You Can Prevent Chronic Diseases", 2020) that:

  1. Stopping smoking (or never starting) lowers the risk of serious health problems, such as heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and lung disease, as well as premature death—even for longtime smokers.
  2. Eating healthy can help prevent, delay, and manage chronic diseases. A balanced diet of fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products is important for any age. Losing 5% to 7% of your body weight can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.
  3. It is possible to prevent, delay, or manage chronic diseases with regular physical activity. For at least 150 minutes a week, aim for moderate physical activity.
  4. Over time, excessive drinking can lead to several diseases. You can reduce health risks by not drinking too much.
  5. If you want to prevent chronic diseases or catch them early, visit your doctor regularly.
  6. They have linked insufficient sleep to the development and poor management of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression. Adults should get at least 7 hours of sleep a day.
  7. If you have a family history of a chronic disease, like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or osteoporosis, you may be more likely to develop that disease yourself. If you want to prevent these conditions or catch them early, you need to share your family health history with your doctor.
  8. By making healthy behaviors part of your daily life, you can prevent conditions such as high blood pressure or obesity, which raise your risk of developing the most common and serious chronic diseases. You can learn more about the healthy actions your loved ones can take.

We need to shift our mindset about the importance of common sense and change our term of reference to "reasoned sense," that is, sound judgment based on a rigorous study of an issue (Taylor, 2011).