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Chronic Care: From Illness to Prevention

Chronic diseases are among the most common, costly and preventable of all health problems in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In fact, seven of the leading causes of death in New Jersey are chronic diseases: heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, chronic lower respiratory disease, Alzheimer’s disease and kidney disease. 

Additionally, chronic disease is a contributor to escalating healthcare costs; an estimated 83 percent of healthcare spending in the United States is related to treatment of patients with chronic diseases.

New Jersey is focused on building a program that integrates the efforts of healthcare providers, businesses, community and faith-based groups, foundations, academia and local health departments into an overall approach to reduce the burden of chronic disease in our state by keeping the healthy as well as possible and preventing those with chronic disease from getting sicker.

The Department of Health worked with these partners to develop a five-year plan to reduce chronic disease and health disparities. The plan, Partnering for a Healthy New Jersey, outlines evidence-based prevention programs and environmental strategies that support healthy lifestyles.

The purpose of the plan is to promote the prevention and wellness continuum within the coordinated care and treatment of chronic disease and establish a framework for a statewide approach through enhanced collaboration.

The New Jersey Chronic Disease and Health Promotion plan outlines six “winnable battles” that we can achieve together. These battles are public health priorities with known, effective strategies to address them. These strategies shift the focus from illness to wellness and prevention:

  • Increase physical activity
  • Improve environmental health
  • Promote self-management
  • Increase early detection
  • Improve access to quality healthcare
  • Eliminate tobacco use

The plan is focused on using data and information to prioritize initiatives, monitor programs and population health; promote healthy behaviors statewide in schools, worksites and communities; improve the delivery and use of clinical services to prevent disease, detect disease early, reduce risk factors and manage complications; and ensure that communities support and clinics refer patients to programs that improve management of chronic conditions.

The department recognizes that the work of chronic disease prevention and health promotion requires an expansion of support beyond clinical care to businesses, community and faith-based groups, foundations, academia and local public health to truly partner with patients in managing and optimizing their health. The plan details opportunities through cross-collaboration to achieve common goals in reducing chronic disease by decreasing the prevalence of common risk factors – particularly obesity and tobacco use.

As part of this plan, the Department is supporting businesses to implement evidence-based strategies that promote a culture of wellness and encourage healthy behaviors such as physical activity and good nutrition. The Department of Health released the Working Well in NJ Toolkit, which can be accessed at http://www.state.nj.us/health/fhs/workingwell/toolkit.shtml.

The Working Well in NJ Toolkit can help employers identify the strengths and limitations of current health and wellness promotion policies, convene a Wellness Committee for the worksite, and then develop a Work Plan designed to improve the worksite wellness program. In addition, the toolkit can assist organizations with program evaluation and measuring a return on investment.

To learn more about the Partnering for a Healthy New Jersey initiative and to read the plan visit: http://www.state.nj.us/health/fhs/chronic/documents/chronic_disease_prevention_plan.pdf.


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