Researchers are warning US leaders and health officials about national strategies for a “new normal” with COVID-19.
The warning, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine Perspective, argues that conversations about the new normal fail to incorporate important lessons from the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic: the important role of chronic non-communicable diseases in exacerbating COVID-19 and the disproportionate burden of COVID -19 on disadvantaged populations and communities of color.
Chronic noncommunicable diseases are those that are not transmitted from person to person and persist for at least a year, such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. They are the leading cause of death worldwide and represent a global health threat that predates the COVID-19 pandemic -; According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the non-communicable disease crisis kills more than 15 million Americans prematurely each year.
John Ma, of the University of Illinois at Chicago, is a co-author of Viewpoint. She said that the COVID-19 pandemic and the chronic disease crisis are creating what is called a synergistic or synergistic epidemic -; Overlapping epidemics that interact and increase disease burden and potential for poor outcomes. She said recent proposals for a new national natural strategy in the United States focus too much on SARS-CoV-2 and too little on the context in which the impact of the virus is most burdensome.
Ma, MD, professor of medicine at Beth and George Vitoux and director of the Vitoux Aging and Prevention Program at UIC School of Medicine, said.
“What we really need is a comprehensive strategy to control the epidemic, because really, the health situation before the pandemic in the United States was not ideal in the first place,” said Ma, who is also co-chair of research in the department of medicine. .
In support of this argument, Ma and co-author, James Salles, of the University of California, San Diego, cited data published in the medical literature showing how non-communicable chronic diseases have created a high susceptibility to severe and fatal COVID-19 outcomes and contributed to racial and ethnic inequalities. for example:
- Nearly 95% of adults in the United States who were hospitalized with COVID-19 between March 2020 and March 2021 had an underlying condition.
- People who were vaccinated with superinfections were 44% to 69% more likely to suffer severe outcomes if they had a chronic disease.
- According to the CDC based on conclusive evidence, non-communicable diseases and risky behaviors such as smoking, drug use, and lack of physical activity confer a greater risk of severe COVID-19.
According to Ma and Salis, “Failure to address NCD control and prevention as a national priority is unacceptable because it conflicts with compelling evidence and misses the opportunity to use the full range of effective intervention approaches that can save lives. The window of opportunity is fleeting, and the consequences of inaction may be devastating by allowing severe vulnerabilities to persist for dangerous and unfair outcomes of non-communicable disease and infectious disease epidemics in the future.”
In their article, the authors also recommend “practical and immediately actionable steps” to integrate chronic disease prevention and control into existing COVID-19 policies and infrastructure. for example:
- Health care systems can prioritize screening, including at vaccination and testing sites for COVID-19, for highly treatable but often undiagnosed and poorly managed chronic medical and psychiatric conditions.
- The mobilized national infrastructure for vaccine promotion and distribution can be leveraged to spread proven lifestyle and behavioral health programmes.
- COVID-19 vaccination and masking campaigns can expand messages to promote healthy lifestyles and mental well-being.
- Partnerships between medical systems, community organizations, and efforts by public and private insurers to respond to the COVID-19 emergency can be expanded to include behavior change interventions in routine health care delivery and coverage.
Ma said agencies such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and state and local governments will need to prioritize supportive reimbursement and financing policies to achieve these steps, but that the benefits will be felt by individuals and communities through more awareness, information and opportunities to manage their health.
“We can help people gain a sense of control over their health,” Ma said.
Although we all hope the pandemic wanes, variables keep coming and vaccines fade, too. Thus, we need to plan now for better responses to the potential next surge as well as to future pandemics.”
James Salles, Professor, Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Longevity Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco
University of Illinois Chicago
Ma, J & Sallis, JF, (2022) A national strategy for coronavirus response and pandemic preparedness should address chronic non-communicable diseases. Journal of General Internal Medicine. doi.org/10.1007/s11606-022-07552-y.