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Matheis: Chronic disease: What are you going to do about it?

As the United States heads into the final stretch of a very long election season, Nevadans need to make sure that candidates and the media focus on issues that matter to our daily lives. Certainly, health care and the policies that candidates are proposing to address health care need to be a vital part of the discussion.

To that end, the Nevada Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD) is working with its many partner groups to encourage Nevadans to ask candidates what they plan to do to address chronic diseases.

Using television, radio, newspaper, and outdoor advertising—along with participating in health fairs and engaging in other grassroots activities—the Nevada PFCD is working to bring the issue into the forefront of the political dialogue.

The PFCD’s message highlights the importance of addressing chronic disease in health care policies and the major impact that chronic diseases have on our lives, our health care spending and our productivity.

Over half of all Nevadans have at least one chronic disease and nearly 700,000 have more than one.

Chronic diseases account for seven out of ten deaths in our state and 86 cents of every dollar spent on health care costs. And the problem is getting worse every year.

For example, right now, projections are that one in three first graders will develop diabetes during their lifetime.

Yet the news is not all bad. The Nevada PFCD released a study showing that simple changes in lifestyles and a focus on prevention and developing new treatments could save nearly 11,000 Nevada lives every year and cut spending on health care in our state by $55 billion over the next 15 years.

Health care policies that work to encourage prevention, medical breakthroughs, and providing treatment options are a major part of the cure.

Chronic conditions like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease impact every one of us, whether we suffer from one of those conditions or a loved one does.

Given the impact of chronic disease on all Nevadans, we should be able to expect candidates to address the issue before they ask for our vote.

The Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease is a nonpartisan group and does not support any specific candidate or political party. As Chairman Dr. Ken Thorpe noted, the purpose of the national and state organizations is to “command the attention of our elected leaders to the spectrum of issues that chronic disease presents and to advocate for policies that will bridge gaps in health care and create opportunities that promote and enable better overall health for our population.”

The Nevada PFCD and its partner organizations will be working hard on all fronts this election season to ensure candidates address health care in a meaningful way.

But advertising and advocacy campaigns won’t work without the vocal support of voters.

So the next time a candidate or a campaign knocks on your door or calls to ask you for your vote, join us by asking in return, “What do you plan to do to fight chronic disease?”

Larry Matheis is a co-chair of the Nevada Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease and the executive director of the Nevada Medical Center, a nonprofit corporation established to improve the health of Nevadans and Nevada’s health care system by promoting and supporting collaboration and cooperation in the medical community and establishing performance metrics and health indicators to identify priorities and measure community success. He served as executive director of the Nevada State Medical Association from 1988-2013.

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