Among the different health conditions that have become noticeable in Western countries today, chronic illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are now the dominant sources of death. Such chronic health conditions are not transmissible, unlike infectious diseases like tuberculosis or pneumonia. In relation to these conditions, there has been a greater focus on prevention aspects such as dietary changes and increased physical activity. However, it is important to recognize that chronic disease has nuanced triggers that often elude casual observation. This discussion will explore the various driving forces of chronic diseases and how a more comprehensive perspective can allow successful prevention.
The 20th century heralded a period where it seemed that the front-facing causes of death in affluent nations had been replaced. Chronic diseases have taken over infectious diseases’ place as the most prominent health threat that is the main cause of heavy mortalities. Modern health threats order a refocus on these burgeoning diseases, since heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are now the core issues. Most important of all, these chronic diseases have very complicated and unique etiologies that do not involve infectious agents and conventional transmissibility.
With the increasing trends in cases of chronic diseases, medical and public health fields had to reorient their focus to offer something different. Preventive measures have taken a pivotal role, with a public emphasis on lifestyle modifications such as modifying dietary habits and increasing physical activity. In addition, there has been a growing prominence of pharmaceutical treatments to combat these conditions. While undeniably achieving positive outcomes by extending longevity and increasing the overall quality of life, these measures leave the deeper dynamics of chronic disease unaddressed.
Ernesto Moralez, a scholar in the realm of public health education, suggests that making people morally responsible for choosing a healthy lifestyle is not helpful for preventing chronic disease. According to Moralez, 80% of interventions are conducted quite late in life and thus, do not have any influence on the intensity at which people suffer from chronic diseases.
Instead, Ernesto Moralez proposes solutions designed to address the cause root of chronic diseases through social responsibility. He underlines that it is worthwhile to consider the causes of disease when it comes to disease clusters for chronic illnesses. County maps that show rates of diabetes, for example, would show clusters in the poorer neighborhoods with low health service provisions, high unemployment, and a poor community environment.
Policy-based interventions consist of the implementation of policies such as zoning and restricting the accessibility of tobacco and vaping products to minors. These policies would be implemented in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods, demonstrating how policy-based intervention can impact diffusion for chronic diseases. Through this fresh perspective, measurable differences in the recurrence of these chronic diseases can be observed by public health officials but only after the policy change is enacted.
Ernesto Moralez has been able to translate these ideas into his next edition of a public health textbook, Introduction to Public Health, which he is co-editing with two other authors and is set to be published in 2024.