Magazine article Behavioral Healthcare Executive

Working toward True Parity

Magazine article Behavioral Healthcare Executive

Working toward True Parity

Article excerpt

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines chronic diseases as being "of long duration and generally slow progression. Chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes, are by far the leading cause of mortality in the world, representing 60% of all deaths." The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recognizes the impact of chronic diseases, and it supports a variety of programs to improve the nation's health by preventing chronic diseases and addressing their risk factors. The CDC provides national leadership on chronic diseases by offering treatment guidelines and recommendations, as well as by helping state health and education agencies promote healthy behaviors.

Yet in the CDC's and WHO's online information, a prominent mention of or reference to addiction as a chronic disease is missing. If you carefully scrutinize the WHO's and CDC's Web sites you can find references to addiction that suggest it is a chronic disease, but other chronic diseases receive much more attention.

If parity is to have true meaning, then the disease of addiction must be understood, recognized, and treated in the same ways that we address other chronic diseases. Researchers and treatment providers of all chronic diseases, including addiction, must he funded at the highest levels to make a positive impact on the overall health of our nation-and the world.

For decades recognition of addiction as a chronic disease has been hampered by questions about addiction treatment's "success," implying that addiction can be cured or fixed. This viewpoint reflects a nonsciemific understanding of this disease. For what other chronic diseases are we obsessed with success rates? Chronic diseases are just that-diseases for which there is no curing, no fixing, and no simple solution.

For most chronic diseases, such as diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, and epilepsy, there is a great deal more emphasis on managing the disease one day at a time. Once the diagnosis has been made and the individual stabilized, the majority of the medical attention shifts to managing the disease so that the person can live as normally and productively as possible. Disease management has become an important part of the response to most chronic diseases. …

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