Experts Anticipate Flood of Chronic Health Conditions Due to Interrupted Health Care During Pandemic

April 19, 2021
Aislinn Antrim, Associate Editor

Long-term societal and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have promoted urgent responses in many sectors, which could lead to real-world efforts to improve prevention of chronic health conditions.

Researchers are anticipating a “tsunami” of chronic health conditions as a result of disrupted care during the COVID-19 pandemic, creating a need for immediate, comprehensive strategies, according to a pair of new articles published in the journal Circulation.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused major disruptions to cardiovascular science and medicine; however, the pandemic also created opportunities to transform and create novel approaches that can yield new successes, according to the researchers. The long-term societal and economic impacts have promoted urgent responses in many sectors, the authors said, which could lead to real-world efforts to improve prevention of chronic health conditions.

The first article is written by Robert M. Califf, MD, the head of clinical policy and strategy at Verily Life Sciences and Google Health and a former commissioner of the FDA. Califf said that immediate, comprehensive action is needed to avoid the dramatic rise in chronic health conditions, particularly cardiometabolic disease. He noted that 3 of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States—cardiovascular disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes—are linked to cardiometabolic disease.

Califf said critical shifts in the US health care system should include universal health care, public health and research strategies incorporating big data, and improved health data sharing that can inform more effective and efficient prevention and treatment protocols and programs. He also noted the impacts of structural racism and said that social determinants of health must be incorporated at all levels of research, clinical care, and within communities and society at large.

He recommended more real time, in-depth tracking of chronic health conditions similar to the rapid data dashboards that were implemented to track COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and death, according to the press release. With better information more easily accessible, Califf said strategies to prevent and treat chronic health conditions can be measured and adapted accordingly.

The second article was written by Nanette K. Wenger, MD, FAHA, a professor of medicine in the cardiology division at Emory University School of Medicine. According to the press release, she has been at the forefront of advancing patient care for more than 60 years and was one of the first women to graduate from Harvard Medical School.

Wenger said she believes the United States has been experiencing 3 simultaneous pandemics: COVID-19, economic disruption, and social injustice, with the COVID-19 pandemic amplifying the societal and health care disparities created by the other 2 pandemics. Despite these problems, Wenger said there have been many recent successes and shifts, such as the quick adoption of telemedicine, which can lead to broad transformation in health care delivery.

As investigators moved quickly to understand COVID-19 and potential treatments and vaccines, the pandemic opened the door for successful public-private partnerships that resulted in rapid results. Wenger wondered whether these partnerships could provide a model for future advancements.

“The convergence of all of these issues, their impact on cardiovascular disease and care, presents unique opportunities for transformation in cardiovascular medicine, clinical care and research,” Wenger concluded in the press release. “We must remain focused and flexible during this unprecedented time to maximize innovation and achieve equity for all.”

REFERENCE

COVID-19: Tsunami of chronic health conditions expected, research & health care disrupted [news release]. American Heart Association; April 6, 2021. https://newsroom.heart.org/news/covid-19-tsunami-of-chronic-health-conditions-expected-research-health-care-disrupted?preview=0d99. Accessed April 7, 2021.