Managing chronic disease in Australia
Chronic disease in Australia is more widespread than you may believe – 50 per cent of Australians have been diagnosed with a long-term condition according to the Department of Health, and often with more than one. So how do we manage something so prevalent and varied? And what support is out there for those living with a chronic condition?
What are chronic diseases?
Chronic diseases are comprised of a whole variety of conditions. These include arthritis, cancer, mental health conditions, chronic kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, and back pain. It is a broad range of persistent and long-term health problems that may have multiple, and complex, causes behind them.
Over 60 per cent of those who are 65 or over live with two or more chronic conditions.
Anyone can be diagnosed with a chronic illness, and they become more common and widespread with age. Over 60 per cent of those who are 65 or over live with two or more chronic conditions.
While not always immediately life-threatening, chronic conditions can compromise an individual’s independence and health. Finding support and learning what support may be out there to help chronic disease management can reduce the impact of them on someone’s life.
Risk factors for chronic conditions
The World Health Organisation classifies the main chronic diseases as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes. Common major risk factors underlie most of the main conditions for both men and women. Listed below, these are known as modifiable, as individuals can make changes to their lifestyles to reduce them:
- Unhealthy diet
- Physical inactivity
- Tobacco use
- Alcohol consumption
Focusing on eating right and drinking less, increasing physical activity, and quitting smoking help remove the risk factors. There are other aspects that can contribute to chronic conditions as well, however they can be more complex in nature, and often link in with the above factors.
The more contributing elements someone associates with, the more chronic conditions they are likely to get.
If steps aren’t taken, intermediate risk factors can begin to show. They include raised blood pressure, obesity, increased blood sugar, and abnormal blood lipids.
Managing chronic diseases
If you or a loved one has a chronic disease, there are many ways out there to help you manage. In Australia it is possible to create a GP Management Plan that identifies what actions you or your loved one can take to help the condition, the services that the GP will provide to support this, and a list of health and care needs.
Team Care Arrangements are available when a chronic condition needs multidisciplinary care.
And for chronic disease self-management, a connected health solution may be just what you or your loved one are looking for. For someone living with a chronic condition, being able to monitor their own symptoms and vital signs can give a sense of control and empowerment. And knowing that a clinician will be notified should readings breach any limits gives a lot of reassurance.
Integrated care and chronic diseases
Integrated care is a system that focuses on bringing together the different branches of the health sector. Due to the sometimes complicated nature of chronic conditions, linking integrated care in with the management of these long-term diseases could be highly beneficial. Especially when one of the overall aims for integrated care is improving community health, which would reduce the risk factors that lead to chronic health problems.
Integrated Care for People with Chronic Conditions (ICPCC)
In New South Wales a redesign process has already begun. The ICPCC is placing emphasis on a few key points. They want to select the right people for the right situations, and engage patients and their carers in managing the chronic conditions. Creating a technology system that allows information sharing and data collection, and supports shared care planning, is also a priority.
The aims of ICPCC include a reduction in avoidable hospitalisations and the length of stay there. They also want to provide greater access to community-based care, and hope to see improvements in patient experiences and health outcomes.
The Health Care Home (HCH)
Across Australia, Parliament is set to implement the HCH model, which has a lot in common with ICPCC. The aim of HCH is to provide more integrated and coordinated care, and reduce preventable hospitalisations. It would encourage patients to become partners in their care, while a main provider (usually their GP) would make sure the support given to them is flexible and team-based.
One of the things required by this model will be improved data collection, and an uptake in electronic health records. It will also be critical to empower patients and their carers to ensure they are actively involved in the process.
If you or a loved one is living with a chronic disease, there are many options available to find support and maintain independence. To find out some of the ways Tunstall may be able to help you, visit us or call us for advice on 1800 603 377.