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A better way to manage chronic disease

With data showing 62% of Australians have a chronic health condition, it’s time for a new approach.

The Medibank Health Check #7: Chronic Disease Management asked 1,500 Australians about their chronic health conditions (being asthma, arthritis, chronic pain, cancer, heart disease, anxiety, depression, diabetes, alcohol/drug dependence and overweight/obesity) and the support they receive.

Here are some of the key things we found out.

We’re in a chronic state

Startlingly, 62% of the group surveyed said they suffered from a chronic condition, and on average, claimed to have between 2 and 3 conditions! The top three were anxiety, overweight/obesity and depression, representing 53% of all the reported conditions.

We understand how to be healthy

Good news – we’re on the right track. The group cited reducing smoking, eating a healthy diet and getting a good night’s sleep as the top ways to improve their health.

Interestingly, when asked about the importance of cutting things out of their diet, responses, in order, were sugar, alcohol and fat. This highlights the increased awareness around sugar and nutrition.

Lucky last? Walking instead of driving or taking public transport. Oh well.

We want to manage our own health, but need a little help

The results are pretty clear, when it comes to managing chronic conditions:

  • 94% want a treatment plan
  • 90% want to take responsibility of their health management
  • 95% want a clear explanation of their chronic condition
  • 94% an understanding of prescribed medication
  • 94% want the doctor to understand their overall health situation

We see our GPs as integral

GPs are being proactive, with 93% of the group experiencing being asked about their general health when at the doctors, and being given suggestions to improve their general health. However, 45% said their GPs seem very busy and only able to concentrate on the health problem presenting in the consultation, highlighting the time pressures that GPs face in looking after their patients.

Furthermore, 77% said they’re relying on sources other than healthcare providers for healthy lifestyle advice and ideas.

We need a new way to manage chronic disease

Medibank Chief Medical Officer, Dr Linda Swan, said that the survey points to the need for a new and more collaborative approach to the prevention and management of chronic illness in Australia.

“GPs are doing their best to minimise and manage the growing number of patients presenting with chronic conditions but the increasing demand is taking its toll. People with chronic conditions want to take control and responsibility for their health and they want health professionals to remain a pivotal part of the process,” she said.

Working in partnership with primary care providers, Medibank is pioneering a range of chronic disease management programs called CareFirst, being piloted in South East Queensland. The model of care is based on evidence that suggests positive outcomes for people with long term health conditions are achievable when they and their families, community partners and health professionals are informed, motivated and working together.

To find out more read the full Medibank Health Check #7: Chronic Disease Management report.

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