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Many hospitalizations due to chronic disease preventable, IDB study shows

Seminar in Bahia addresses epidemic of chronic disease in Latin America and the Caribbean

Early interventions and improved primary care could prevent more than six million annual hospitalizations in Latin America and the Caribbean due to chronic diseases such as cancer and diabetes, a new study by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) shows.

This works 16 percent of the region´s total hospitalizations, or nearly one in six persons who check into a hospital do so because of chronic disease.

The study was unveiled at the Chronic Diseases, Primary Health Care and Health System Performance: Diagnosis, Tools and Interventions, sponsored by the IDB in collaboration with the Government of Bahia and the Federal University in Salvador, Bahia on December 6-8, 2011.

The event brought together policy makers, international organizations and leading researchers from Latin America and the Caribbean, the United States and Europe to discuss solutions to the challenges of growing chronic illnesses and to share their best practices and lessons learned.

Chronic illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes are now the leading causes of death and illness in Latin America and the Caribbean, accounting for 68 percent of deaths and 60 percent of disability-adjusted life years due to less healthy diets, lack of physical activity and the rising obesity. The poor are the most vulnerable due to their higher risk factors such as limited access to screening and treatment services and less ability to cope with the financial consequences of chronic diseases

The IDB study argues that most deaths caused by chronic illnesses are preventable. Up to 80 percent of heart disease, stroke and type II diabetes could be prevented by eliminating shared risk factors like smoking, drinking and promoting healthy diet and exercise. Primary care has also proven to be highly effective in the prevention by managing those risk factors through counseling, medication.

The enhanced prevention and primary care system can dramatically reduce the number of hospitalizations and contribute to the promotion of healthier and more productive populations as well as more equitable and efficient health system, the study concludes.

A study of low and middle income countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico, published in the Lancet, estimates that US$85 billion of economic production will be lost from heart disease, stroke and diabetes between 2006 and 2015 in the 23 countries that were analyzed. Diabetes alone costs Latin America and the Caribbean countries around $10 billion a year.