I had the opportunity to witness history yesterday. My daughter and I were on the lawn of the Capitol to see Barack Obama take the oath of office as our 44th President.
The mood around us was celebratory and reverent at the same time as we all realized that history was being made. President Obama's words were inspiring, and it was a thrill to look down the Mall and see millions of people waving American flags.
The campaign for the White House seemed endless, from the long marathon of the primary season, to the final sprint--and hurdles--from the national conventions to November 4. It could have forced many people to tune out, but it didn't. We saw record-breaking voter turnout, and we had the chance to really learn about the candidates and where they stood on some of the issues--like the need to overhaul our healthcare system.
What I found very hopeful was that the presidential candidates spoke so passionately about the need for healthcare reform. And it was important that they spoke about the need to focus on what is really crippling our healthcare system--the epidemic of chronic diseases.
How frightening is it that nearly half of our population has at least one chronic disease, such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease? What's more, 7 out of 10 deaths are attributed to chronic diseases, and $3 out every $4 that we spend on healthcare goes toward treating chronic diseases.
If we are going to reform our healthcare system, we need to make sure that it works smartly and efficiently to save money and improve our health. That can only be done by focusing on preventing people from developing chronic diseases--through healthy lifestyles and regular health screenings. If they do become ill, we need to make sure that people manage their diseases through diet, exercise, following their doctors' orders, and taking medication as prescribed. And we must continue the search for new and better treatments and cures for these diseases. If we don't address the underlying problem, reform will not be sustainable.
The new administration and Congress have an enormous amount of work to do on many fronts, from the economy and foreign policy to crumbling infrastructure and healthcare reform. Many of these issues are interrelated. But one thing is clear: our healthcare system needs help. It was reassuring to hear HHS Secretary nominee, Tom Dashcle, focus on prevention and chronic disease management in his confirmation hearings, and that the new stimulus package has money for prevention. This is a great beginning, and I hope that we see support for innovative research for diseases such as Alzheimers Disease, which threatens to overwhelm our healthcare system as our nation ages.
So let's take a moment to welcome the new administration--and urge them to focus on what's really driving healthcare costs: chronic diseases