Ovations Chronic Disease Initiative. UnitedHealth Group

editor Equipo editorial — 30/03/2010


Ovations, a UnitedHealth Group company. Ovations is partnering with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Oxford Health Alliance, and health care experts from around the world to develop specific strategies to address this critical public health issue in concert with governments, non-governmental organizations and the private sector globally.

Fragility, pluripathology/polipathology and/or complex chronic diseases

The focus of the initiative will include:

  • Raising awareness of chronic disease and the potential global impact
  • Developing, implementing and sharing best practices on preventing and managing chronic illnesses at the local level
  • Building systems and infrastructure to address chronic disease that could also be used to manage other diseases more effectively and sustainably.

“The dramatic rise in chronic disease, if left unaddressed, will have severe human consequences,” said Simon Stevens, Chief Executive Officer of Ovations, the UnitedHealth Group company dedicated to improving the health and well-being of Americans ages 50 or older. “The global economic impact of chronic disease is equally alarming – costing trillions of dollars, reducing worker productivity, keeping millions of people in hardship, and straining government budgets at all levels. Tackling chronic conditions effectively is key to improving the equity and sustainability of health care systems in the US and internationally,” said Stevens.

The Ovations Approach

In addition to raising awareness of chronic diseases, Ovations and its partners will focus on creating an effective infrastructure for sharing the knowledge and skills necessary to prevent, manage and treat chronic illnesses in developed and developing countries. This will include improving the cost-effective deployment of human, technology and financial resources within the national health care systems.

Ovations will work with governments, non-governmental organizations, non-profit groups, individuals and private companies to expand and accelerate effective and practical programs that support the initiative’s goals. As part of UnitedHealth Group’s Corporate Social Responsibility program, Ovations is committing up to $15 million in financial, managerial and in-kind resources over the next five years in support of the program, which is being developed in conjunction with the Clinton Global Initiative.

Global Advisory Board Formed

The Company has assembled a Global Advisory Board of leading health care experts to provide strategic direction and guidance for the program. Chaired by Dr. Richard Smith, Chief Executive Officer of UnitedHealth Europe and former editor of the British Medical Journal, the Advisory Board includes:

  • Sir George A.O. Alleyne, Pan American Health Organization – Regional Office of the WHO
  • Dr. Julio Frenk, The Gates Foundation
  • Dr. Roger I. Glass, Director of the NIH’s Fogarty International Center and Associate Director for the organization’s international programs
  • Dr. Lauren Leroy, Grantmakers in Health
  • Dr. Liming Li, Vice President, Chinese Academy of Medical Science/Peking Union Medical College
  • Dr. John Mach, Chief Executive Officer, Evercare Health Care
  • Dr. Stephen MacMahon, Principal Director, University of Sydney, George Institute
  • Dr. Victor Matsudo, President, Physical Fitness Research Center of Sao Caetano do Sul – CELAFISCS, and the founder of Agita Mundo, an international organization dedicated to the promotion of physical activity
  • Dr. Bongani Mayosi, University of Cape Town
  • Dr. K. Srinath Reddy, All India Institute of Medical Sciences
  • Dr. Nizal Sarrafzadegan, Director, Isfahan Cardiovascular Research Center
  • Marcia Smith, former Chief Executive Officer, Evercare Health Care
  • Dr. Derek Yach, member of the board of the Oxford Health Alliance, an international partnership of governments, NGOs and corporations, which is confronting the epidemic of chronic diseases; Director, Global Health Policy for PepsiCo; Advisor to the Clinton Global Initiative; and former Executive Director of Non-communicable Diseases at the World Health Organization.

“We need to apply what we know about managing, treating and preventing chronic disease at the local level around the world,” said Dr. Smith. “This type of public-private partnership is the best way to identify, implement and share practical solutions for preventing and managing chronic disease globally. This approach is informed by the resources, expertise, commitment, knowledge and understanding of the local circumstances in countries around the world.”

“Already, the rising incidence of chronic illnesses is having an especially negative impact in the developing world – but if they are left unaddressed, the consequences could be catastrophic,” said Dr. Glass of the NIH. “There are many research questions that need to be answered. We’re proud to be part of this initiative, and expect that it will play an instrumental role in addressing this pressing public health challenge.”

Spring Summit to Launch and Coordinate Global Efforts

There will be a Spring Summit at the National Institutes of Health’s campus in Bethesda, MD on May 7 and 8. Co-hosted by the NIH, the event will bring together more than 20 experts on chronic disease from around the world to define global priorities, identify the most effective practical measures for preventing and managing chronic disease, and begin to organize collective efforts to fight the growth of chronic disease. Thomas Gaziano, MD, a member of the Harvard University faculty and an expert on cardiovascular disease in developing countries, has written a position paper that will form the basis of the discussion at the Spring Summit.

The Impact of Chronic Diseases

In 2005, chronic diseases – including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancers, and chronic respiratory disease – claimed nearly 35 million lives worldwide, a number that is expected to rise by more than 40% by 2020. These diseases are an interconnected epidemic often driven by urbanization, rapid industrialization and the resulting impact on lifestyle – poor diet, lack of physical activity, environmental strains, and the use of tobacco and alcohol cause most chronic diseases.

These long-term illnesses are not primarily diseases of the well-to-do, a common misperception. In fact, nearly 80% of those suffering from chronic disease are among poor populations in the developing world, where few nations are adequately prepared to handle the health care burden of both acute infectious diseases and chronic illnesses. Developing countries bear the greatest burden of this growing public health crisis, further impeding their economic growth. In just four countries – China, India, Brazil and Russia – it is estimated that the loss of national income from heart disease, stroke and diabetes totals more than $1.1 trillion.

About Ovations and UnitedHealth Group

Ovations, a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group, is the largest company in the U.S. dedicated to meeting the health and well-being needs of people age 50 and older. It provides chronic disease management services, health insurance, Medicare-managed care and related services, access to prescription and non-prescription medications, and other healthy living products. It has a long track record of innovative partnerships with governments and not-for-profit organizations.

UnitedHealth Group is a diversified health and well-being company dedicated to making health care work better. The company directs its resources into designing products, providing services and applying technologies that improve access to health and well-being services, simplify the health care experience, promote quality, and make health care more affordable.

Headquartered in Minneapolis, Minn., UnitedHealth Group offers a broad spectrum of products and services through six operating businesses: UnitedHealthcare, Ovations, AmeriChoice, Uniprise, Specialized Care Services and Ingenix. Through its family of businesses, UnitedHealth Group serves approximately 70 million individuals nationwide. Learn more about UnitedHealth Group at www.unitedhealthgroup.com.

The Human Toll of Chronic Disease

Chronic disease – cardiovascular disease, long-term respiratory disease, cancer and diabetes – are the leading cause of death in the world, killing more than 35 million people in 2005 alone, a number that is expected to rise by more than 40% by 2020, six times more than the number of people who died from all communicable diseases such as TB, malaria and HIV/AIDS combined. These diseases also have a profoundly negative impact on the quality of life of those who suffer from them.

  • Sixty percent of deaths around the world, encompassing both developed and developing nations, are the result of chronic disease.(1)
  • Chronic disease is the leading cause of death and disability in the United States(2)
  • More than 90 million Americans live with long-term illnesses.
  • Heart disease and stroke, the most common cardiovascular diseases, and the #1 and #3 causes of death for both men and women in the United States, account for nearly 40% of all annual deaths.
  • Today there are one billion people in the world who are overweight or obese – 200 million in China alone.
  • In 1991, only four U.S. states had obesity prevalence rates of 15-19% and no states had rates at or above 20%. In 2004, seven states had obesity prevalence rates of 15-19%, and 42 states had rates at or above 20%, including nine with rates over 25%.
  • Chronic diseases are a far more significant – and growing – problem in the developing world.3
  • Eighty percent of long-term disease deaths are in low and middle-income countries. In China and India, long-term diseases account for 70% to 80% of deaths.
  • Cardiovascular disease is now the leading cause of death in developing countries.
  • The number of individuals with diabetes is estimated to increase from 171 million to 366 million by 2030 – or more than 19,000 new patients every day for the next 20 years.(4)
  • Developing countries will bear the greatest burden, with 81% of global diabetes cases by 2030.
  • Four of the five largest diabetes populations in the world are in Asia – India, China, Pakistan and Japan(5).
  • Cancer incidence increased 19% between 1990 and 2000, mainly in developing countries.(6)

The Economic Impact

The economic impact of chronic disease is dramatic – costing trillions of dollars, reducing worker productivity, straining government budgets at all levels and keeping millions of people in poverty. Nearly 80% of those suffering from chronic disease are among the poor populations in the developing world, where few nations are adequately prepared to handle the health care burden of both infectious diseases and chronic illnesses.

  • The medical care costs of Americans with chronic diseases account for more than 75% of the nation’s $1.4 trillion medical care costs.
  • The United States cannot effectively address escalating health care costs without addressing the problem of chronic diseases.(7)
  • The direct and indirect costs of diabetes are nearly $132 billion a year.
  • The estimated direct and indirect costs associated with smoking exceed $75 billion annually.
  • In 2001, approximately $300 billion was spent on all cardiovascular diseases. Over $129 in lost productivity was due to cardiovascular disease.
  • The direct medical costs associated with physical inactivity were nearly $76.6 billion in 2000.
  • It is estimated that the loss of national income in just four nations – China, India, Russia and Brazil – from heart disease, stroke and diabetes totals more than $1.1 trillion.(8)
  • WHO estimates that the costs of treating diabetes may reach 25% of the total budget of Pacific Islands and Caribbean states.(9)
  • It is estimated that one out of every three hospital bed-days in Latin America are occupied for diabetes-related causes, with average costs for a year of diabetes care at roughly $550 per person, exceeding most per capita gross domestic product health expenditures.(10)
  • Thirty percent of poor Chinese households in 2005 attributed their poverty to health care costs.(11)
  • In India, payroll losses from cardiovascular disease in a single year (2000) were estimated at $198 million.(12)

(1) World Health Organization
(2) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(3) World Health Organization
(4) Ibid
(5) BBC, 02/22/06
(6) World Health Organization
(7) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(8) World Health Organization
(9) Ibid
(10) Nature Medicine, (January 2006)
(11) Ibid
(12) World Health Organization



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